Lessons from the Effies shortlist

This year's Effie's shortlist offers a countervailing commentary to what works when it comes to making work that works.

Despite the dominating narrative of short-termism across our industry, it’s those who think and operate with a long-term perspective whose campaigns will be decorated this September.

This isn’t by design. The Effie Awards recognise effectiveness in all forms with no bias to long-term campaign. A quick glance at previous or global winners reveals a diversity of cases across multiple categories.

The commitment to the long-term is no more apparent than when it comes to retailers. A staggering fifty-per cent of the shortlist is made up of Britain’s biggest retail names and this shouldn’t surprise. They enjoy strong, open relationships with their agency partners, where the daily sharing of sales data and rigorous campaign planning is the norm.

Appearing on the shortlist doesn’t demand big budgets either and among the smaller spenders a different currency dominates. Bravery. It remains scarce in the agency world but, when spent, the results speak for themselves.

Perhaps most surprising is those who don’t appear, as entries or on the shortlist. Where are the FMCG and beauty brands? The entertainment brands? The so-called agency staples – airline, car, fashion, bank brand? Surely, they have effectiveness stories to tell.

Perhaps the real missing piece is an industry-wide culture of effectiveness. A culture that gives equal weight to creative and results, recognising the unwavering relationship between the two and giving time and energy to celebrating this. A culture that believes resolutely in having the data and the argument to demonstrate effectiveness, providing the basis for an awards entry in the first place.

Building this culture starts with long-term commitment.

Despite the prevailing winds of short-termism that hurt our industry, of the 14 winning brands in this year’s Effies, 11 have been partnering with their respective creative agencies for five years or more. This in an era when the average tenure of a chief marketing officer is little over three years – the shortest of any in the C-Suite – and continues to decline.

Forward thinking pays and its fruits are shared. Aside from the regular receipt of industry gongs, there’s huge boosts to talent recruitment and retention, while a long-term strategic approach is the undisputed bedrock of effective brand building. A firm commitment to establishing a culture of effectiveness (read, not a method or a process, but a full-on, entrenched, seeped-into-the-agency-woodwork culture) will cultivate the next batch of creatively effective brains.

It’s not easy. New business targets, quarterly reporting and the lure of tactical opportunities all take away time and focus.

Effectiveness requires generosity. Especially in time. Even writing an effectiveness paper is a chunky undertaking let alone the whole being effective thing. There must be champions and the process should start long before the moment a blank sheet of paper becomes a brief.

Clients and agency colleagues will step into the light when educated on the virtues of measuring effectiveness and a commitment to this should be baked in from the start of any new relationship or hire. Almost without exception, this year’s crop of winners weren’t strangers and had submitted papers in previous years. Their desire to be recognised for effectiveness was not a new thing.

The final piece of the effectiveness jigsaw is the most fundamental. Trust. It’s the foundation of all the above. Trust breeds the generosity from client to agency. It’s the the keystone of a lasting relationship and gives the breathing space for long-term thinking.

Trust is the golden thread running through each of this year’s top submissions.

Trust is what leads to retailers sharing their daily sales data and key performance metrics with agency partners, essential for optimising performance and telling an effectiveness story over many years. It was trust that took others over the line into embracing and running with brave ideas in lieu of big budgets.

Simply put, trust makes great work that works.

That’s the reason why our industry exists and the Effies is here to champion that.

Commitment. Generosity. Trust. The road to effectiveness starts now.

Simon Law is the chief strategy officer at Possible and Katie Mackay-Sinclair is a partner at Mother.

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