Why old dogs should never stop learning new tricks

Armadillo's Chris Thurling explains why he took the IPA Effectiveness Essentials Certificate.

Who says that old dogs can't learn new tricks? Armadillo's Chris Thurling explains why he took the IPA Effectiveness Essentials Certificate and why it's vital that everyone has a refresher on the basics of advertising effectiveness - no matter their years in the industry.

In my experience, the only types of people who don't suffer from bouts of imposter syndrome are psychopaths, liars or people who are useless at their jobs.

In his 2014 book, Creativity Inc, Ed Catmull, President and Founder of Pixar, wrote about his journey from computer geek to managing and leading a multi-million dollar company: "...while I liked the idea of being in charge, I went to work every day feeling something of a fraud." Knowing that someone as phenomenally smart and successful as Ed Catmull feels this way, makes me feel less hard on myself for occasionally thinking that I am out of my depth.

As a senior leader (I am Chairman of our company) I confess that I am uncomfortable admitting that there are gaps in my knowledge and training. Especially when those gaps are in the areas most people would consider the "101" topics of our industry.

The truth is that I have picked up the bulk of what I know about advertising and marketing 'on the job'. This is still the tradition in our industry - certainly compared to other professions such as medicine or the law - and in many respects, it has worked well. What better way to learn about what works and what doesn't than sitting alongside experienced creatives or planners on real-life briefs?

However, the problem with 'learning on the job' is that it's a pretty random and unsystematic way of acquiring knowledge. If this is the only way you get trained, then inevitably, there will be gaps, and you are unlikely to have your assumptions challenged by alternative perspectives. And with our industry changing at breakneck speed, it's risky and complacent to think that the training you received ten, twenty or even thirty years ago is still up to date.

All of which brings me to the IPA's latest qualification the Effectiveness Essentials Certificate, which launched over lockdown. The course is pitched primarily at entry-level practitioners. It aims to give a solid grounding in "the principles of effectiveness, why it matters and how you can make the case for commercial creativity" drawing on the latest research.

Now, if you think that you know all about the fundamentals of effectiveness, then this course isn't for you.

But I have no problem admitting that, despite being a director of an agency that is all about measurable results, there’s always more to learn.

So I signed up and completed the course (I passed, phew!) a few weeks ago.

It took me roughly eight hours to complete all the modules, but it was time well-spent. I learned things that were new to me, such as Les Binet and Peter Field's work on the most effective balance between brand building and sales activation (the 60/40 rule) and the power of ‘fluent devices’. And I had useful refreshers in areas such as behavioural science, the difference between effectiveness and efficiency and the use of data and heuristics to de-risk advertising.

It was a really useful exercise to remind myself about the first principles of how advertising works and how to build a serious business case for creative advertising and marketing that even the most sceptical CFO would find compelling. With effectiveness being part of our DNA, I’m hoping that all levels of Armadillo will embrace this course, and even go on to do the Advanced Certificate in Effectiveness (formerly the Eff Test), that the IPA is launching in October 2020.

Chris Thurling is Chairman at Armadillo. The Effectiveness Essentials Certificate is free for IPA members and provides an overview of effectiveness principles, learnings from IPA Effectiveness Award winning case studies and guidelines for developing an effectiveness culture with your brand, team or agency. 

Find out more about Effectiveness at our free EffWorks Global 2020 Conference in October
Last updated 06 October 2020