Why proving effectiveness is our line of duty

Proving the effectiveness of purpose

Are we confusing the argument about purpose? IPA Head of Marketing Strategy Kathryn Patten argues that as the industry is around to create behaviour change regardless of whether or not it’s 'purposeful' then having an effectiveness culture is fundamental to delivering our 'purpose'.

I'm not a planner, a brand manager, a CMO, or an agency leader but 20+ years in the industry and I now think I have something effective to say about effectiveness.

As a topic, effectiveness sometimes gets a bad rap. It can be pitted against creativity as a concept - when really the two work hand in hand. Some parts of the industry revere effectiveness as the reserve of the clever people. But really what could be more fundamental than demonstrating what you achieved was… what you set out to achieve.

That’s the nub, you see. Businesses set objectives (commercial or otherwise, more on that later); marketers set marketing objectives to meet those objectives; and communications planners set comms objectives to deliver those marketing objectives. Marketing effectiveness is demonstrating that causal effect. Simples.

Our industry loves to celebrate the tactics. But really turning the dial and achieving the set objectives - sometimes with the cleverest of tactics, is the real Gold standard. With strategy being the route to get you there, and tactics the actions to deliver that strategy.

Behaviour change and the IPA Effectiveness Awards

Having sat in on judging sessions over many years for the IPA Effectiveness Awards, I can reveal this fundamental fact about Effectiveness juries - they are tough, ruthless and suspicious. Sometimes following their line of questioning is a little like delving into the fifth series of Line of Duty without following the twisting and connected plots from the first four series. But really the end goal is much like Superintendent Hastings and crew looking for 'bent coppers'…they are looking for any gaps in the evidence presented between the behaviour change observed and the claim that strategic marketing activity, and not some other factor, drove that behaviour change.

So let's just explore the notion of behaviour change for a moment. In the IPA Effectiveness Awards to date that behaviour change is normally purchasing the product, increasing the basket value at the till, watching the TV show, booking the holiday or signing up for the subscription. But it can also be stopping smoking, remembering to buckle up when in the car, looking out for the early tell-tale signs of cancer and doing something specific about it; or getting your COVID-19 vaccination.

Proving the effectiveness of purpose

So as we emerge from Cannes Lions (with infinitely clearer heads than previous years) and we see the industry arguing about the amount of 'purpose' driven creative executions, then I think increasingly we will be looking within the 2022 IPA Effectiveness Awards for water-tight evidence of how specifically those purpose driven strategies delivered behaviour change.

So what's to consider in proving the effectiveness of 'purpose'? Well - cause and effect. That is, what was the objective, what was the activity, and how can you show that the activity drove the required behaviour change needed to meet the objective. It’s the same as in any campaign but arguably it's going to be far trickier to isolate the effect of the activity over and above any other factors when we are considering the role of purpose-driven marketing communications in reducing impact from carbon emissions; encouraging kindness; representing the under-represented; encouraging activism; or highlighting inequality.

I look forward to seeing how the clever people in advertising can do just that by the entry deadline in April 2022. Meanwhile, it makes me ponder are there many other industries that question their own fundamental purpose in the way our industry does?

Surely, we are confusing the argument about purpose. As an industry, we are around to create behaviour change regardless of whether or not it’s 'purposeful'. That is effectiveness in action. It guides our strategy, it drives our creativity, it's not retrospective, it's forward-looking, and if, as agencies, we can agree that is our role - then having an effectiveness culture is fundamental to delivering our 'purpose'.

Have your say on effectiveness culture

So here is the ad: the IPA supported by ISBA are asking each of you in Creative, Production, Finance, Brand, Strategy, Marketing, Leadership wherever, to complete our ten-minute survey benchmarking the industry’s Marketing Effectiveness Culture. Participation in it can also help to identify areas - across the organisations focus, data, people, or processes - that could do with improvement.

Let's hope my objective for writing this piece is met with a behaviour change from you - in the guise of filling in this survey. That would be effective.

Be part of the Marketing Effectiveness Culture Monitor

The opinions expressed here are those of the author 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.

Last updated 10 November 2021