Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Effectiveness Equation

Account Planning Group Event Recap

It was a testy affair. A room packed full of agency planners, strategists, clients, and the business-minded, all about to be told that they weren’t doing enough to track the effectiveness of their work. Measuring effectiveness, after all, means measuring our value. Did we think smart enough? Did we examine all possible options? Did we make the strategic choice?

It’s disarming. It made me a bit scared.

Instead, what the latest APG Canada Event “Effectiveness: No More Excuses” did was make me feel empowered. Not only did it ease my fears, but it made me realize that all marketers, from clients to other strategists, are trying to figure this effectiveness thing out.

First, I heard the WHY: the reason why I need to pay more attention to effectiveness. Second, the HOW: an actual process and set of strategies used by an award-winning strategist. Finally, the WHAT: anecdotes from a large corporate client that made effectiveness the engine of its marketing tactics.

Here’s my recap:


First, John Bradley, former Director of Marketing at Cadbury and now an Advertising Effectiveness Consultant, on the WHY.

In short: C-suite consulting firms are now offering effectiveness-driven advertising solutions for clients, and if traditional ad agencies don’t catch up, they will die.

These firms, like the Boston Consulting Groups, McKinseys, and Deloittes of the world, have always put measurability above creativity. With their experience in advising clients on accounting and operations, effectiveness is pretty much their business. Their deliverable is the impact that they have on their client's business, and being able to measure and track that impact makes clients feel good. They’re selling certainty.

Compare this to most traditional agencies, which talk about effectiveness and pay attention to results, but don’t necessarily let effectiveness drive what they do. This can leave clients feeling in the dark on their marketing efforts and wondering: is advertising paying back?

Zero-based budgeting also contributes to this: each marketing activity requires a business case and demands commitment to future results. This is a way of working that consulting firms excel at. At agencies, the first question is quite often: what’s the budget?

Agencies need to catch up, says Bradley, and integrate effectiveness into how they operate, ideate, and speak.


Which brings us to the HOW. How can we integrate effectiveness into how we work?

In a talk titled “Engineering Luck”, Michelle Lee, Head of Planning at Ogilvy, walked us through her approach, using Ogilvy’s CASSIES Grand Prix winning No Baby Unhugged campaign for Huggies as an example:

The task at hand, she explained, requires “Priming”: setting the expectations for everyone working on a campaign and making effectiveness an idea driver instead of just a result.

We know from modern research on the brain and consumer decision making that there are certain, mostly emotional triggers that have a strong influence on human behaviour. By identifying the trigger you want to leverage and orienting your team around it, Lee says, you’re putting effectiveness at the center of the work and priming them to measure their ideas against it.

To “Prime” consumers, write a tight brief that utilizes a behavioural trigger. For example, with Huggies, Lee identified the “Authority Bias” as a key driver in baby products and infant care. New moms and dads want products that others have tried, tested, and approved—their baby is too precious to take a risk with. Her brief inspired Huggies to partner with the Canadian Pediatrics Organization and lead the “No Baby Unhugged” initiative.

Next, “Prime” your creatives. Challenge them to follow an effectiveness roadmap during ideation and ask themselves: What’s the idea? What will it do? How will it do that?

Finally, “Prime” your clients by walking them through the same effectiveness roadmap and your plan for measuring the campaign’s impact along the way.


To round out what was turning into a very effective discussion, we heard from Rob Assimakopoulos, Chief Marketing Officer at CIBC and a sparkplug of effectiveness within the organization.

Rob gave us an enthusiastic recap of WHAT influenced his path towards effectiveness, including the Byron Sharp Marketing Bible How Brands Grow, which stresses the importance of standing out in order to increase a brand’s mental availability. To help CIBC effectively stand out, the brand adopted cartoon (and now CGI) penguins as its mascots and spokespersons (spokespenguins?), a look and personality that no other Canadian bank was using.

Another WHAT from Rob was effective message construction. He described this as being succinct, dramatizing the benefits, cultivating interest and then closing the deal. The process he implemented at CIBC in order to measure the effectiveness of their marketing, especially with their digital, direct response, and in-branch tactics, involved (1) Placing the ad, (2) Measuring its effectivess, and then (3) Counter Measuring it if any tweaks were made.

Rob was an inspiration. The stories he shared about his epiphany and his continual challenge of experimenting and implementing processes that help inform CIBC on the effectiveness of their marketing tactics should encourage marketers everywhere to make the effort.

So there you have it!

My takeaway of the WHY, the HOW, and the WHAT of the effectiveness equation. Thank you to the APG and its speakers for yet another effective event.

I hope this recap inspires you to examine your own point of view and approach to effectiveness!

And if you're ready to take your effectiveness training to the next level, consider taking APG Canada's Eff Test Online Course.

Check out my recaps on past APG Events here:

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