Brands and agencies should work together to build a true culture of effectiveness

No marketer wants to create work that doesn’t work, so building and fostering a culture of creative effectiveness is essential.

Our industry is guilty of sidelining effectiveness. In a world of new, fast and ‘what’s next?’, effectiveness is often eye-rolled as slow, overcomplicated and backwards-looking. It’s the data-crunching result of the far more glamorous creative process.

But the misconception that creatives and marketers don’t need to concern themselves with effectiveness is nonsense. Who wants to create work that doesn’t work?

Thinkbox’s latest study of advertising effectiveness has proven that advertising is a profitable driver of business growth and that all forms of advertising pay back, especially when their sustained effects are measured. The study found that advertising has an average short-term profit ROI of £1.87 per pound invested, which increases to £4.11 when sustained effects are included.

Advertising’s longer term ROI more than double short term, study finds

So a culture of creative effectiveness is clearly critical, but how do you build it?

At BBH, effectiveness is in our blood. When we win awards – such as Agency of the Year at the Marketing Week Awards – it isn’t just the strats in the corner dancing, it’s a win for everyone.

But for some clients, you’ll find marketing teams not exactly enthralled by effectiveness. How many marketers can be found poring over the minutiae of effectiveness papers, filled with technical language and sometimes opaque jargon? A gold star goes to anyone who understands even half of the acronyms found in the average paper.

A huge amount of work goes into it, but the results are not getting to the people who can affect the most change with them. The effectiveness of their work needs to be something marketers want to know. Couched in the right terms, it’s the best kind of feedback. Is their work working? Are they having an impact?

Share the results

Advertising at its best has clear and concise communication at its heart. So deploy these skills in the sharing of effectiveness information to make it relevant and interesting to everyone who works for the agency or brand. And for crying out loud, show the work alongside the results.

The business impact of creativity is clear: Cannes Lions’ recent State of Creativity study found that brands predicting higher growth in 2024 are six times more likely to prioritise creative marketing. But it also found that convincing stakeholders to invest in creativity was one of their top challenges.

In many agency/client relationships, effectiveness is seen as the job of planners and strategists, but as a marketing lead, this conflict must be confronted. Everyone in your business should be pulling in the same direction with a culture of effectiveness across every department, all the time.

We still need to find the zags, rely on gut instincts and brilliant craft. But effectiveness is equally important.

We can help that disconnect by making sure we bring the client on the effectiveness journey. Not every marketer is fluent in effectiveness and econometrics, but we can break down the barriers of entry for them. And don’t limit it to the marketing team – bring the whole C-suite with you.

At BBH, we worked with Neustar Marketshare to develop a data-driven measurement framework for clients with less experience or confidence with econometrics. Rather than commit them to a full model build, this solution helps clients compile an intermediate measurement framework by linking softer KPIs like branding and creativity to hard business KPIs including sales.

Communication must go both ways, too. Tesco keeps us constantly updated with the latest business results and performance metrics. And we’re involved from the proposition stage of a project right through to final execution, so we have a deep understanding of what’s of real importance to the client and its customers which is integral to a culture of effectiveness.

This Much I Learned: Tesco and BBH unpack an award-winning agency/client relationship

If you don’t have internal resources, then look to the industry. At the IPA, where I chair the Effectiveness Group, we have a world-leading base of knowledge on effectiveness that has been built up since the Effectiveness Awards began in 1980 – so get stuck in.

But to truly succeed, make sure effectiveness is combined with world-class creativity – brilliant marketers will use all the methodology, measurement and research as an input, not as the decision maker.

There isn’t a marketer in the world who doesn’t want to make famous advertising and advertising that makes their brand famous. We still need to find the zags, rely on gut instincts and brilliant craft. But effectiveness is equally important. So let’s create a culture where creativity and effectiveness truly combine.

Karen Martin is CEO of BBH  and chair of the IPA Effectiveness Group.