At this year’s Cannes Lions, Peter Field’s analysis of entrants into the UK’s IPA awards declared a crisis in creative effectiveness, blaming organisational short-termism for the decline. At Kantar we have long championed the role of creativity in driving brand predisposition, that if converted into action, delivers short term sales and longer-term equity. So, if award-winning ads are becoming less effective, how can we help restore them to their former strong effectiveness?
To answer the question, we tested a batch of 2019 award winners and looked at our Link ad testing database. The ad tests confirmed Field’s observations as well as my own June hypothesis: winners of Cannes Lions are seen as highly distinctive and involving, but many of them lack a strong role or space for the brand. We know that branding is the strongest single predictor of in-market effects.
Sometimes, for big event advertising like the Super Bowl, being distinctive and well branded meets the communication objective. Anything else needs more. That ‘more’ is the ability to contribute to longer-term brand equity. Our work also showed that the 2019 winners tend to be weak in their ability to do this – in line with Field’s assertion that the decline in effectiveness is driven by short termism – and that contribution to longer-term equity has been declining over time. Much of the content isn’t seen as conveying meaningful difference, which our BrandZ work has shown time and time again to be the foundation of valuable and growing brands. In some cases, the distinctive nature of the creative does convert to a sense of brand difference, but not always. But the larger problem is that few people see that the content or what it advertises as being for them.
Cannes has been compared to an haute couture fashion show, where improbable and over-the-top creative is on show. What reaches consumers will be watered down to be more acceptable. If awards entries are made purely to showcase an agency’s creative credentials, that is fine: I have nothing against celebrating brilliant content. However, when work is being created and the client is putting media behind it, then I do think that there is a requirement that it delivers ROI.
The good news is that when we split the results for 2019 winners into Kantar clients and non-clients, we see markedly better results on summary measures of both long and short-term effectiveness. Client ads are also better branded and significantly more meaningful. Clearly, the discipline of evaluating work not only ensures success for individual ads, but also builds learning about what it takes to be both creative and effective.
So, do our findings surprise you?