The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step

A view from IPA President Julian Douglas

IPA President Julian Douglas gives his key takeouts from EffWorks Global 2021.

We recently had EffWorks Global 2021, one of the most important events in the calendar for the IPA. And what an event it was. For me, it was brilliant on two levels. One, because it was my first event in-person as IPA President, post lock-down. The energy in the room was palpable - you could almost feel the sparks of ideas in the room and the crackle of excitement in seeing people in person at last. And it was great to feel the energy and enthusiasm of bumping into old friends, colleagues and sparring partners in the in-between moments as well as the discussions and debates that took place on stage. 

The second reason it was so good was the quality and sheer breadth of the content. There was something to satisfy even the most discerning and demanding of minds, with the launch of eight pieces of new R&D as well as a stand-out myth-busting session '444B reasons to make B2B marketing work' (with a special shout out to Jennifer Shaw-Sweet making her first trip to the UK since moving to Amsterdam), to 'Marketing Effectiveness Culture', led by effectiveness aficionados, with personal experience from both agency and client-side, Unilever’s Jo Royce and Go Ignite’s Nick Milne. There were many other highlights and if you haven’t already, I would urge you to dive in and watch the recordings. But for me, it was the discussion about culture that I found the most pertinent.

We are working in an industry under pressure. We’ve seen our relevance wane, our budgets tighten, our best talent consider their options. After 40 years, the bi-annual IPA Effectiveness Awards continue to be pre-eminent and are quite rightly globally renowned. But, to reverse the trend, and broaden the understanding of the value of effectiveness, we need to do something game-changing. We need everyone to appreciate the value of the contribution we make, not just those in the planning dept or those who tune in to EffWorks. This requires a cultural shift in agencies and client marketing departments.

Culture change in any field is difficult. In this instance, for those who aren’t effectiveness experts like Jo and Nick, it can be quite daunting. But a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step: creating an effectiveness roadmap.

What is meant by an effectiveness roadmap?

It’s a plan across the four key elements of effectiveness culture (Focus, People, Process, and Data / Tools / Measurement) detailing the steps needed to improve the value from an effectiveness approach. How an agency or brand progresses along its roadmap will define how effectiveness culture improves.

Findings from the recent IPA Marketing Effectiveness Culture Report show that there are two clear benefits of having an effectiveness roadmap:

  1. Having an effectiveness roadmap increases marketing effectiveness culture by 26%
  2. It helps move thinking away from short-term value generation to a balanced short and long-term view
    • Brands with an effectiveness roadmap are 58% more likely to balance long and short-term value
    • Agencies with an effectiveness roadmap are 63% less likely to believe short term delivers the greatest value

With the roadmap comes better organisational alignments around the effectiveness approach and a better foundation for the ability to activate recommendations from effectiveness analysis, which is a challenge both for brands (scoring 6.7 out of 10 for the ability to activate recommendations) and agencies (scoring 6.5 out of 10 for clients activating their recommendations).

Where to start with creating a roadmap?

The following questions can be asked as a starter:

  1. What does marketing effectiveness mean to the organisation/agency and what are the expectations from an effectiveness approach?
  2. Is there a clearly defined planning process and what does it look like?
  3. Do you have the data to support the meaningful measurement of marketing activity and, if not, how are you going to get it?
  4. How do you intend to show the value created from marketing investment and increase the impact on marketing decision making with this evidence?
  5. Is there a focus on continuous learning and development, and do you learn from both success and failures?

As an agency, roadmaps need to be thought about on two counts. Firstly for setting out the agency’s own approach to effectiveness. Secondly, creating an effectiveness roadmap for working with each client. This second roadmap is the real value generator and will help overcome one of the biggest effectiveness challenges that agencies face: getting access to the right data to measure marketing activities and help prove the value of work. This is particularly pertinent given 51% of responses from agencies in the IPA’s Culture Report state Data, Tools and Measurement as the biggest effectiveness challenge over the next 12 months.

The shared agency/client effectiveness roadmap will be an important next step for agencies, particularly for those with the ambition to enter the IPA Effectiveness Awards in 2022 and/or to achieve IPA Effectiveness Accreditation in 2023. 

For those embarking on this journey, my advice is to take that crucial first step today.

Last updated 10 November 2021