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New research from Peter Field shows that short-term thinking is no longer just ‘Selling creativity short. It is killing it. The crisis in creative effectiveness was launched at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity 2019.

The crisis in creative effectiveness

Creativity, often cited as the lifeblood of our industry has always had an ‘effectiveness advantage.’ Creative campaigns that seek to build strong brands are very good at doing so. Creatively awarded campaigns are more effective than those that have not been awarded.

Things have changed…

But, one of the most shocking findings of Peter Field’s new report is that creative campaigns are now no longer outperforming their less inspired cousins when it comes to effectiveness. According to his findings, they are less effective than they have been in 24 years of data analysis. Today they are no more effective than non-awarded campaigns.

Chart showing the decline of effectiveness in creative campaigns

This collapse in the effectiveness and efficiency of creativity can be explained by one over-riding factor. The shift to short-term activation-focused campaigns.

At the same time, they are also becoming less efficient. From 1996-2008 creatively awarded campaigns were around 12 times as efficient as non-awarded ones. But over the period from 2006-2018 this fell. Creative campaigns became less than four times as efficient. It continues to fall and creativity is almost certainly delivering no overall efficiency advantage today.

chart showing the collapse in effectiveness of creative campaigns that is killing creativity

So are we killing creativity? Or, is this just a natural progression of the rules of marketing?

A casualty of short-termism

This collapse in the effectiveness and efficiency of creativity can be explained by one over-riding factor. The shift to short-term activation-focused campaigns and the strategic and media trends this has promoted.

A short-term environment is not one in which creativity flourishes. Enormous effectiveness multipliers are evident for the most creative campaigns. But it needs time. Creativity delivers very little of its full potential over short campaign durations.

“This is the report I hoped I would never have to write. A final wake-up call for good sense, before it is too late.”
Peter Field Marketing Consultant 

And yet the fashion for short-term, disposable and ultimately inefficient creativity continues. Perversely, it is the trends that brands and the industry have chased over the last decade that are to blame for the sorry state of one of our most powerful tools. More and more, awards juries are rewarding short term, disposable creative ideas, encouraging this mindset.

EffWeek 2019
Creativity & Effectiveness Reimagined
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Great examples still exist in the form of exemplars like Snickers, John Lewis, and Guinness, but there is a gulf between them and bad practice. It would be easy to assume that the rules have somehow changed, that creativity is no longer important, but the evidence just doesn’t support that. As Janet Hull of the IPA says, “this is not because the rules of creativity for brand-building have changed, but rather that they are not being applied in the right measure, through the right channels, at the right time.”

The approach that high performers take is defined by:

  • a more balanced approach to short and long-term objectives
  • campaign in-market long enough to embed behavioural change: at least six months
  • broader and earlier targeting of consumers, not data-driven, real-time communications linked to purchase intent
  • greater use of broad reach, brand-building media: TV, online video, OOH
  • a balanced allocation of media expenditure between brand building and sales activation.

Best practice guidelines like those found in ‘Effectiveness in context,’ by Les Binet and Peter Field should be used.

We must stop squandering creativity

We believe that if we are to stem the decline of creativity in our industry, we need to stop squandering the use of creative firepower for tactical initiatives. Instead, briefs should stress that ideas will strengthen the brand over time. Creative shows also have a role to play. Separate classes of awards are recommended for short and long-term creativity. This could incentivise a rebalancing of creative endeavour in favour of long-term results.

The Crisis in Creative effectiveness is available to download now. The report is a follow-up to the IPA’s 2016 report Selling Creativity Short which was based on IPA and Gunn report data to 2014. The new report includes two new waves of case study data, from 2016 and 2018. This provides 24 years of data covering almost 600 case studies, 121 of which picked up major creative awards worldwide at the 46 creative shows monitored by the Gunn Report (now part of WARC Rankings).

The crisis in creative effectiveness

“Just what the industry needs, great collaboration between clients and agencies on the topics that drive business growth.”

Bridget Angear, Joint Chief Strategy Officer at AMV BBDO

“It’s great to see the IPA in the UK bring the whole industry and particularly the trade bodies together to focus on effectiveness. This new Marketing Effectiveness initiative will enable people across the industry to work together to build on best practice.”

David Wheldon, Chief Marketing Officer, RBS

“Effectiveness is a team sport, so it was great to see the industry in the widest sense, come together. In an increasingly diverse and fragmented world, only by using all parts of the brain will we solve effectiveness challenges and design our campaigns to deliver short and long term value. That’s why what happens next is important – if the IPA can help facilitate progress on this with a long-term initiative around Marketing Effectiveness, we’ll definitely crack it.”

Bart Michels, Global CEO Kantar Added Value and Country Leader Kantar UK

“The time spent at #EffWeek was extraordinarily effective. It was great to hear the diverse views from all areas of the industry. All tied together with the common themes of accountability and effectiveness.”

Andrew Canter, Global CEO, BCMA

“It has been a privilege to be part of the inaugural Effectiveness Week. The agenda is one which we at O2 UK feel passionately about. To see and hear perspectives across the industry demonstrates how the breadth of marketing effectiveness is increasingly being valued within businesses. Data, insight, social, customer experience, test and learn, ROI, these are all fundamentals and were covered expansively at the event”.

Sandra Fazackerley, Marketing & Consumer, Telefónica UK Limited

“The full week of effectiveness events brought into clear focus the need for marketers to use data and insight to achieve the key business objectives of growth and profits. Marketers today are in a better position to quantify their knowledge of customers and measure the ability of investments in marketing to increase brand and shareholder value.”

Chris Combemale, Group CEO, DMA