The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

What Is Effectiveness?
September 10, 2010, 6:22 am
Filed under: Comment

One of the things that really bugs me about adland is their definition of ‘effectiveness’.

It appears that when things go well, we happily take all credit for success, but when things go wrong, it’s laid firmly at the feet of the client.

The other thing that bothers me is how a lot of the success in effectiveness awards is down to the skill/writing of the submission rather than the actual results. I’m not saying someone who hasn’t got good results can win an award simply because it’s well written – but I do find it annoying that campaigns that have followed a generic approach can still get credited when the award is supposedly about clever thinking and approaches.

Let’s look at AKQA’s campaign for Fiat’s ‘eco drive’ campaign from a year or two ago.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful and clearly articulates the product and it’s benefit – but in my mind any ‘effectiveness’ credit should be at the very least shared with FIAT, rather than given purely to AKQA … and yet when it was up for submission, FIAT’s role in developing the product [a product that genuinely made a difference to owners and differentiated the brand from the category] was hardly given a whiff of attention.

For an industry that likes to say how they’re media neutral and focused on business solving ideas – it never fails to amaze me how time after time after time they just focus on what they know or – worse – try and claim something traditional is new.

Are you listening Dove and your ‘Evolution’ TV ad, repositioned as an effective digital strategy campaign?

If we want to get back in business good books, it might help if we started celebrating effectiveness with an open mind rather than a delusional one … but to be honest, if we really want to get back in their good books, we should focus on tackling their real problems which are very, very, very rarely [just] about making [better] advertising.

46 Comments so far
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you’re assuming that an awards category is about accurate reflection?

rob, i figured you would have learned something by now…

Comment by lauren

I believe Robert is aware of this Lauren, he wrote something about that recently unless my memory has packed it’s bags and retired to Tuscany, which is entirely possible.

What I believe he is highlighting is that even if people are aware of award shows issues, the industry still fawns over the winners thus perpetuating the myth they are business and creative geniuses and clients are paid up members of the ignoramus association.

Comment by Lee Hill

i’m just teasing him lee. promise.

but thank you for the reminder to address the actual topic 🙂

Comment by lauren

You should be chairman of one of the advertising effectiveness awards Robert, but this wonderfully accurate post explains why you won’t.

Effectiveness is built on collaboration but these awards try to promote individualism. Foolish.

Comment by Lee Hill

I agree with every word of this post. Advertising does have a very important role to play in a brands success but the way it talks itself up and the way the awards only recognise advertising as the contributor to success explains why business has about as much respect for us as a whole as it does their director of HR.

Great post and I agree with Lee about how you should be Chairman for one of these shows but your view ensures you never will.

Comment by Pete

youre trying to say aka werent directly and purely responsible for selling a shitload of iti rust buckets with their bastard love child of tiffany meets happy tree friends film? fucking preposterous. youll be claiming google achieved all their success through years of r&d investment and effort next, when we all fucking know its down to those sweet superbowl ads.

why the fuck are you trying to confuse us you planning bastard realist?

Comment by andy@cynic

and why the fuck is lauren, lee and pete up so early/late?

i thought you all had lives. i was fucking wrong. losers.

Comment by andy@cynic

Motorola’s iconic V3 phone. You think the design had everything to do with their success and not Ogilvy Beijing’s “Hello Moto” ads? You’re insane. Even we know our success is purely down to MediaArts, which is why I can’t work out why we bother keeping our R&D department around other than for shareholders image sake.

Comment by Bazza

your comment explains finally explains the ipad. of fucking course, it has mediafarts written all over it.

something old rehashed to look like something new but not quite getting it right. why the fuck didnt i see that before.

Comment by andy@cynic

This will be an NP approved comment if there ever was one.

Comment by Rob

Don’t get me started on bastard Media Arts, just don’t
The amount of time bigwig twats would trot out Apple as an example of how Media Arts was simple and devastatingly effective…
And as for the New York We’re For Dogs adaption drive….product placement, that’s all it was, bloody product placement

Comment by northern

Hey that guy in the video has a Fiat t-shirt, how much recognition could they possibly give them?

Seriously though,I think eco:Drive may be a bad example to pick on since – admittedly from what AKQA says – the agency got involved from the moment Fiat realised they could pull data from Microsoft’s Blue & Me system that was originally intended to play mp3s etc. Whether or not eco:Drive was the main factor behind whatever they’re claiming it achieved for the purpose of effectiveness awards is another question, but you can’t really dissociate AKQA from eco:Drive’s development.

Now if you wanted to tell me that essentially, well, it’s a lot like Nike +, I’d have a different opinion about the whole thing…

I do agree with the post’s general idea that agencies in general are happy to take full credit for successes, but are quick come up with all sorts of excuses why failures aren’t completely their doing. That’s just human nature unfortunately. Something something bias. As for why clients don’t get credited in award shows, I’ll take a guess and assume that’s because they could hardly give a shit about them. Maybe Lee or Bazza could confirm?

Comment by rafik

I disagree Rafik about the EcoDrive example for 2 reasons:

1/ You say [or AKQA says] “Fiat realised they could pull data from Microsoft’s Blue & Me system that was originally intended to play mp3s”. FIAT realised … not AKQA … so even if they were more integral in pulling things together, they were not the instigator of the concept and yet so much of the award talk does not talk about this, just like they don’t talk about FIAT except to say that is who AKQA helped.

2/ If they were involved at inception – why the fuck did they not enter into more business focused awards …the sorts of awards that actually command respect from companies, companies that could give them more money and more chances to make stuff like this happen.

I know there are huge limitations placed on adland in being able to make great ideas like this happen – however we don’t exactly help our cause when [1] we don’t do it when we have the chance [2] we act like we did it when we just made the ads.

Communication is hugely important in amplifying ideas of value, however given adland talks such a big game, it’s tragic [at least for me] that they hardly ever practice what they preach or maybe I’m wrong and a 30″ ad on TV or Youtube really is all a brand needs to achieve success.

Comment by Rob

I agree with you that a lot of the award talk perhaps gives the idea that the client came asking for a banner campaign and they pulled that out of their hat.

But again those videos are done for award show juries, so you’d expect them to ever so slightly embellish the truth.

There’s somewhat of a trend in awarding stuff done outside the traditional communications channels because it’s NEW! and because clients wouldn’t let their agencies near that before. Or maybe (most) agencies just didn’t feel the need to go there until recently.

Oh, and agreed about the business focused awards too. Don’t know if they did. And if they did, would it really look as impressive in a bigger pond so too speak?

Comment by rafik

I think your argument really only applies in the case of a new product. If the product’s been around a while, then any upturn in sales is surely hard to ascribe to the product?

That said, it’s ridiculous for your industry to assume causation where only correlation exists as happens all the time in effectiveness awards. Not sure if that’s down to innumeracy, arrogance or deceit (or a combination of all three), but if these claims are to have any credibility then they must explicitly factor out or counter all those other elements that might explain the sales increase. [See my seminal post about Fallon’s gorilla if you’ve nothing better to do.]

And any agency that starts claiming responsibility for an increase in client’s share price needs firing.

Comment by John

I would say your view only applies when a client dictates they want an ad … an ad where they’ve already dictated strategy and – to a certain extent – executional style.

Sadly that’s more common than any of us would like, but if you focus on answering specific business problems [not marketing, business] then you may find yourself in a position to recomend solutions that range from ads to service standatds to new products or – as I have often found to be the case – twists on old products which ends up as new variants.

The reality is – as I’ve said many a time – marketing directors have lost their seat at the boardroom table as much as adland has so the only way to address this is to deal at the top, understand business but also represent an approach that affects change not just in the short term and not just in the target audiences rational mindset.

Of course there’s other views, but I think I could go against most agencies and prove our system has worked versus their ‘in theory’ scam ideas.

Now there’s fighting talk for you.

Comment by Rob

Agreed. Though I was responding to what I thought was a post about ad effectiveness awards. Your point about applying for business awards is right on the money.

And I’d add that I think marketing directors got where they aren’t today because they focussed on the promotion side of marketing at the expense of longer term business strategy.

Comment by John

“marketing directors got where they aren’t today”

fuck me dodds, i think you just made me hard.

Comment by andy@cynic

I want to be sick. But not as much as John will want to be.

Comment by Rob

ive just vomited in my mouth after reading it again.

Comment by andy@cynic

Does anyone know if Fiat has purchased or tried to purchase AKQA?

Comment by George

This isn’t about AKQA – they are innocent bystanders in all of this, I simply used them as an example because they were the first who came to mind [which is proof of their effectiveness I guess, ha] – this is about an industry that has awards that only promotes, in many case, the companies who were at the end of the ‘process’ rather than acknowledge [or even appreciate] the guys who managed to develop something actually worth shouting about in this that in this World of parity and lowest-common-denominator offerings.

Apologies to AKQA, I did not mean to undermine their excellent hard work – but as I wrote here [] I believe there’s more examples of agencies being truly effective to their clients business than there are now but interms of the way the industry promotes itself, you’d never think that was the case at all.

Comment by Rob

Anyway all awards in all industries should be abolished. They’re just PR bait and ego massages.

Comment by John

awards shouldnt be banned, judging should be tougher and if theyre about effectiveness, the figures should be examined with a fine fucking brush. and a calculator. even campbells shitty one from 1981.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Rob

Effectiveness gets in the way of doing cool shit.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Since when did you do anything cool, let alone effective?

Comment by Rob

fuck me campbell pulls a funny out the hat. call the papers.

Comment by andy@cynic

Long time follower, first time commenter. Thanks for stopping me feel strange for questioning the things the industry calls successful.

Comment by Darryn Murray

It’s hard coming out of the shadows and commenting on this blog Darryn. A brave move on your part.

There is no turning back now. None.

He has you.

Comment by The Kaiser

Hi there Darryn, lovely to have you comment – I hope you come back, especially as we seem soooooooooo in tune. You poor sod.

Comment by Rob





Comment by The Kaiser

Welcome to the Hotel California (without the mirrors on the ceiling or the pink champagne on ice)

Comment by northern

It’s also not ‘Such a lovely place’, but any time of year, you CAN find us here.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

4 years? 4 fucking years. ive had that millstone around my fucking neck since nineteen fucking ninety. you bastards dont know youre fucking born. ive tried to shake him off but hes more invincible than cockroaches and keith fucking richards.

4 years? youre all weak as fucking piss.

Comment by andy@cynic

If you want to win in IPA, you leave out Econometrics at your peril.
Don’t tell the truth about what really happened, make it out as some linear, professional process, just make up some crisis mid- process you had to overcome and have some over-arching learning you want people to take away..something you never thought of until you sat down to write the paper. That should just about do the trick.

Comment by northern

Were you a management consultant in another life?

Comment by John

No I was a fish.
Now here’s the planning version of the management consultant version above:
Find what you should have done and use overcomplex data to make like you did

Comment by northern

im very fucking disappointed at how few fuckers commented on this post. well we did but were fucking the godfathers of this pissy little blog. where are all the weakling little bastards who want to pretend theyre donald wiggy trump because they won an effie for managing to con the fuckwit jury in to thinking they were worth of an award for gillette or some shit by somehow doing exactly the same campaign theyve been running for the past 27000 years.

ill tell you whats wrong with planners. they say shit. they are the new sheep. and we are the wolves. die sheep. die you fucking pansy group following sheep.

Comment by andy@cynic

Another reasoned argument from Andy.

Comment by DH

It’s a tough one.

On one hand we are saying doesn’t include all the evidence and isn’t reliable enough; then we say it relies too much on econometrics and process.

You’d think there is a way of doing both in a better way… but ultimately awards are awards, no agency is going to say ‘A creative came up with a line and we post rationalised the campaign around it” regardless of how often that’s the truth.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I haven’t won an Effie, which are even less rigous than IPA’s, which I’m embrassed to admit I HAVE won, and I thought I was admitting they’re all a smokescreen in the comment above. Please pay attention. The sawdust must be getting to your eyes.

Comment by northern

campbells won effies. 6 or so of the fuckers. proof how fucked they are but he admits it too which is another reason he wont be invited to chair an effectiveness award that even makes the corrupt as fuck oscars seem credible.

Comment by andy@cynic

But it would be very funny if he did

Comment by northern

we should lobby for him and then laugh as the fucker brings the whole corrupt ego shit to its knees. fuck me, he might actually end up doing something useful for once. there has to be a first time the law of fucking averages says that doesnt it?

Comment by andy@cynic

Can you all stop talking like I’m too stupid to work out what you’re trying to do. Thanks. Ha.

Comment by Rob

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