What makes a marketing campaign effective? Warc has tried to work it out by analysing more than 2,000 winners of 79 different effectiveness and strategy competitions, assigning points based on the prizes won and weighted by how rigorous and prestigious the award.

Using this methodology, which was developed in partnership with King’s College London, it has come up with a list of the top 100 most effective global marketing campaigns and the top advertisers in the world. Top of the company list is Procter & Gamble with nine campaigns in the top 100, ahead of Unilever and the Coca-Cola Company.

Rank Advertiser Points
1 Procter & Gamble 594.3
2 Unilever 477.5
3 The Coca-Cola Company 454.9
4 Heineken 287.6
5 PepsiCo 231.1

The secret to P&G’s success? According to Roisin Donnelly, brand director for P&G in Northern Europe, it remains having a deep understanding of the customer.

“Our industry is being disrupted by new models of marketing and selling, new retailers, and a consumer empowered new technology and a new age of transparency.

“In this new changing world the secret to success remains the same – deeply understanding the consumer better than anyone else, designing everything you do for them and delighting them at every point they encounter your brand, your product or your business,” she told Marketing Week.

Nevertheless there are some key insights that brands can learn about what makes a successful marketing campaign that helps to drive business results.

Digital delivers

According to Warc analysis, 55% (or 11) of the top 20 ranked campaigns were digitally led, with social media and online video in particular delivering business results.

The report pulled out notable examples including Volvo Trucks’ ‘Live Test Series’ which was fifth on the list of the best global campaigns. It reached 100 million views on YouTube and helped sales increase by 23% in the fourth quarter of 2013. Newcastle Brown Ale’s ‘If We Made It’, which was sixth, was also credited for a sales volume boost of 20%.

Digital is also playing a bigger role in campaigns. Bobby Brittain, marketing director for Coca-Cola Great Britain, told Marketing Week how the brand is looking to new platforms to reach audiences.

“Digital marketing and social media are integral to our plans and last year we started to use new platforms such as Snapchat. Our Christmas campaign included a 24-hour sponsored filter which achieved very strong results and positive consumer feedback,” he said.

However, David Tiltman, head of content at Warc, warns that while digital can be effective, in part because it usually commands lower budgets, it often needs to be combined with extra support to build initial momentum. For example, Volvo Trucks combined online video and PR while #LikeAGirl started out online but was backed by an ad during the Super Bowl.

“Many of the digital-led campaigns were backed by paid ad support, either online or offline. These are digital-led but not necessarily digital-only campaigns.

“Plus success is hard to pull off – you need a highly shareable message and the right ‘push’ behind it. One of the reasons effectiveness award juries are recognising these campaigns is that they are tricky things to get right,” he explains.

Marketing for good

Pioneered by Unilever-owned Dove over the past 10 years, more and more brands are taking a strong, socially progressive stance in their campaigns. Several of the top 20 ranked campaigns have taken up causes – whether encouraging women to get involved in sport as with Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ or asking women to defy tradition through ‘Touch the pickle’ for P&G’s Whisper brand.

Donnelly explains why they are so successful: “Marketing has incredible power to reach consumers and win their hearts and minds. We’ve seen this at P&G with the success of Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign all around the world for example.

“A clear message relevant to the audience, relevant to the brand, going beyond product performance to the role the brand can play in people’s lives.

“At P&G we realise the power of marketing for good; creating inspiring campaigns that build brands, win consumer trust and loyalty but also make a difference in society.”

Roisin Donnelly, brand director for Northern Europe, P&G

Most brands pick relatively uncontentious topics – be that female empowerment or cutting food waste. Coca-Cola’s latest ‘Taste the feeling’ campaign is focused on increasing sales of its lower calorie options.

Brittain said: “Our new campaign ‘Taste the Feeling’ brings the one brand strategy to life and combines product and brand marketing with universal storytelling, using everyday moments to connect with consumers. It also reinforces our commitment to choice, encouraging consumers to choose whichever Coca-Cola suits their taste, lifestyle and diet.”

However, the sheer number of marketing campaigns focusing on these types of messages has raised the issue of diminishing returns and Titman believes brands should start to be “braver”, citing the example of Honey Maid which took a more “progressive” point of view by celebrating alternative family structures.

“Although this can be risky, spotting a ‘cultural tension’ can lead to advertising that gets noticed and aligns a brand with certain groups in society. It is particularly powerful when brands are targeting younger demographics,” he says.

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy

One of the most notable outcomes of the report was the huge range of lead media used among the top campaigns. Some used innovative point-of-sales ads, others personalised packaging. Online video, traditional TV and mobile apps can all be found in the top 10 campaigns.

The top ranked Warc 100 campaign, ‘Penny the Pirate’ by Australian opticians OPSM, was based around a book and app that aimed to highlight vision problems in children. More than 126,000 parents bought the book and the number of eye tests booked increased by 22.6% year on year. Sales were also up by more than a fifth (22.4%).

“[The results] suggest that there is now no single media model for campaign success,” says Titman.

Brand Viewpoint


David Lette, Premium brands director, Heineken

How does Heineken measure marketing effectiveness?

We look at two things. The first is commercial results – how does the brand perform in terms of growth, rate of sale, penetration, market share development on a volume and value level. And secondly at the brand itself – how consumers see the brand, consumer brand preference and equity measures linked to the premium assets we have.

What are Heineken’s guiding principles?

We want to be premium at every touchpoint, from in-store to on a billboard to a fantastic looking Heineken taxi driving by. In bars we want to bring the theatre back into beer. It is about adding value across the entire customer journey with us and offering a better experience.

We have been around for 150 years, are in 192 markets and the number one global beer brand. But to cut-through we have to have something really interesting that speaks consumers’ language. The Champions League, Rugby World Cup and James Bond all bring something different. Last year we had our Heineken rugby studio which enabled fans of rugby to tweet with rugby legends such as Will Carling and have a direct conversation with them. That is a learning we have taken into the Champions League.

How do you incorporate digital to ensure it is delivering business results?

We have stepchanged how much we invest in digital and our capabilities internally. We don’t use the same measures across every platform and we work out carefully how we want our message to land in different media landscapes, that is critical to cut through.

And we don’t look at digital as separate but integral to our message. The brand role doesn’t change, it is how that comes across in our sponsorships, on digital platforms and in more traditional media.

Why is social activism so important?

It shows we understand today’s world and are willing to listen, interact and be more relevant. We know people love drinking beer and drinking great beer but also drinking beer moderately makes you more attractive, hence our campaign ‘Moderate Drinkers Wanted’ is about enjoying Heineken responsibly and that is very relevant to today’s consumer.

If we want to be around for another 150 years we have to be part of today’s world.