Les Binet and Peter Field’s 2013 IPA seminal report, 'The Long and The Short of It', woke up the advertising industry to the dangers of short-termism. Ten years and several reports later, the challenge is to ensure its lessons are used in client boardrooms.
In 2013, The Long and The Short of It was nothing short of a wake-up call that marketing was “sleepwalking towards a precipice” where the over-use of short-term metrics would damage brands’ profitability in the long term.
Since then, it’s been cited in more than 70 pieces of academic research and textbooks, including the Journal of Advertising Research, International Journal of Market Research, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, and referenced in dozens of other publications in languages as diverse as Chinese, German, French, Russian and Brazilian. Oh! and the World Health Organisation and National Institute Economic Review have made use of it too.
I’m privileged to be marking the original report’s tenth Anniversary by hosting a fireside chat with its authors at EffWorksGlobal 2023. Ten years ago, Tik Tok didn’t exist, Netflix was celebrating its first birthday in the UK and Meta and X were still known as Facebook and Twitter. Furthermore, beyond the burgeoning growth in recent years of media platforms, the Coronavirus epidemic ensured that even the most die-hard Luddites went online.
Considering this seismic change, I’ll be asking Les and Peter how relevant the lessons of The Long and Short of It still are. In truth, I’m somewhat leading the witness here, as they addressed (much of) this change in subsequent reports: Media in Focus (2017) and Effectiveness in Context (2018). These included campaign data executed in an increasingly mature digital landscape with firm social presence. Again, they proved that it was the balance between long-term and short-term communication that was key. Remarkably the ‘sweet spot’ remained nearly constant too. In The Long and The Short of It the optimum budget ratio was 60:40 between brand building and activation, in Effectiveness in Context it was 62:38. (These Titans of Effectiveness are nothing if not precise.) It is noteworthy that these later reports were introduced by ThinkBox and Google (UK) leaders. Binet and Field’s findings carry weight in all courts.
These reports collectively represent a canon of marketing effectiveness and as such, the tenth Anniversary of The Long and The Short of It deserves recognition and respect. Marketers need robust, objective research they can trust and take to their boards to make informed decisions. The Long and the Short of It, and its sibling reports, provide this evidence in spades.
And yet, here’s the rub. Despite this evidence showing the sweet spot to be 62:38 in favour of brand, short-termism continued to grow. Data included in Effectiveness in Context revealed that the percentage of campaigns which were short-term was increasing, and as this “tide of activation” (in Peter Field’s words) rose, effectiveness fell (defined as the number of very large business effects reported in IPA cases). This was based on data from before the COVID period and the current cost of living crisis, so just imagine how much more the tide of activation may have risen today.
So yes, let’s celebrate the tenth anniversary of The Long and the Short of It, but let’s also question why its learnings seemingly aren’t acted on more frequently.
Because for me, the issue 10 years on isn’t does the learning still hold. The stats speak for themselves. The issue is how are we, as practitioners, harnessing this evidence with those who question the value of what we do? To go back to the start, how do we ensure this type of evidence is being cited in Fast Company and The Financial Times as much as it is in the Journal of Advertising Research; how to ensure that it's being used in the boardrooms of our client CEO and CFO as well as agency land? How does it earn its place on the CEO’s desk, and become the CMO’s bible?
And importantly, how can we as practitioners, collectively keep waking up, absorbing and strengthening this evidence so that we build brands’ long-term effectiveness in practice, not just cite ‘best practice’ in theory?
Now that’s a conversation I’m looking forward to having on 10 October at EffWorksGlobal. Hope to see you there.
Alison Hoad is Chief Strategy Officer of Publicis•PokeBook your ticket for 2023 EffWorks Global
The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.