Purpose-driven campaigns top Warc Effectiveness 100 ranking

A composite image of purpose-driven campaigns and brands
Clockwise from top left: Nike's 'Crazy Dreams', Unilever, Home Centre's 'A Dad's Job' and Guarana Antartica's 'She Can'

Success of Nike, Unilever et al contradicts purpose detractors.

What do a Middle Eastern home goods retailer and sports brand Nike have in common?

They were judged to be the top two most effective marketing campaigns in the world last year, according to Warc’s 2021 Effectiveness 100 ranking. By a huge distance.

Nike’s "Crazy Dreams" campaign by W&K Portland created $6bn in brand value, generated a 31% increase in sales and was the most successful campaign in the brand’s history.

Home Centre’s "A Dad’s Job" campaign, which was a close second to Nike, generated a 120% increase in revenue from Arab mothers.

Both campaigns saw the brands taking a stand on social issues, a trend that recently provoked a backlash from a top investor in Unilever and from creative director Steve Harrison.

The intersection of Nike’s campaign with racial tensions in the US meant that the work fundamentally shifted culture, according to Warc content senior vice-president David Tiltman.

The stand that Home Centre took, with its creative agency FP7 McCann Dubai, was to break the taboo around celebrating single mothers in the Middle East. It released a film online, on Father’s Day, showing real children paying tributes to a parent – the reveal being that the kids were talking to their single mothers. It then backed this up with an influencer-driven campaign.

Elsewhere in the 10 most effective campaigns ranking was one from Unilever, which was famously criticised by shareholder and fund manager Terry Smith for having “lost the plot” because it feels “it has to define the purpose of Hellmann’s mayonnaise”.

The Unilever campaign was for Knorr stock cubes rather than Hellmann’s, but was likely outside Smith’s comfort zone as it aimed to empower people in poverty in Egypt by helping them grow their own food through hydroponic rooftop farms. It came from the Cairo office of FP7 McCann.

Unilever itself slipped down to second in Warc’s ranking of the most effective advertisers in the world, outdone by another purpose convert, ABInBev.

The global brewing giant recorded three entries in the 100 most effective campaigns, of which two were notably purpose-driven.

One was for a social programme for its Cerveza Nuestra Siembra brand to create a beer made from local ingredients to promote sales in Ecuador. The other saw its Guarana Antarctica soft drink brand drive commercial interest in women’s football in Brazil by promising to give space on its cans to any brand that decided to sponsor the sport.

Warc’s Tiltman told Campaign that many of the Effectiveness 100 campaigns had used purpose “judiciously”.

“The Effective 100 is a real mix this year of pure commercial campaigns, not-for-profit activity, and what might be called ‘purpose’ activity on behalf of commercial brands. Purpose, of course, has become a lightning-rod issue in marketing – some believe it is key to creating a long-term platform for their brands; others argue that an obsession with purpose is distracting marketers from their core role as drivers of commercial growth.

“Looking at the campaigns in the Effective 100, two things are clear. First, those campaigns with a ‘purpose’ element have done so judiciously. That is, the stand they have taken or the cause they have championed is a clear fit with the brand and helps that brand create distinctiveness in the market (Nike’s ‘Crazy Dreams’ is a prime example). Second, they have achieved the ‘double hit’ of driving positive change in society at the same time as commercial returns. This is why these campaigns are standing out to effectiveness award show judges.”

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