This is not just advertising ...

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising's Effectiveness Awards continually set the bar higher than other awards in the advertising world. Their cause is helped by the fact that at least half the marketing industry continues to cling to the belief that there are other legitimate ways to recognise the advertising product than the effect that it has on its desired audience.

Even by their own high standards, this year's Effectiveness Awards provide an impressive array of winners. The Grand Prix, won by RKCR/Y&R for Marks & Spencer, is the sort of advertising success that everyone can understand. The turnaround that M&S has undergone over the past two years quite simply would not have happened without its advertising. This is something that either a dispassionate member of the shopping public or interrogative City analyst could easily grasp, on the basis that both the campaign and extraordinary reversal of fortunes at the retailer have been so evident.

This observation, that proof of advertising effectiveness has rarely been so widely accessible, raises the question of whom the awards actually serve. Had you been at the Park Lane Hilton on Monday night you would have been in no doubt that the purpose was the greater glorification of the winning ad agencies - certainly there was celebratory behaviour among the tables of RKCR/Y&R and DDB London, named Effectiveness Agency of the Year, again.

There are subtle shades of sottishness during awards season, however, and the Effectiveness Awards carry enough weight that, even among the honour-laden agencies, behaviour reflects the recognition that these awards exist to serve a nobler cause than new business.

As an insurance policy, the IPA wisely provides journalists with a useful Trends and Angles document just in case any of the key learnings from the evening are forgotten on the way home. Again, there is a sense among these that the Effectiveness Awards are evolving in just the way the IPA wishes, and that this is to the advantage of the wider marketing community.

For starters, agency collaboration is getting better - in the sense that there are fewer instances of naked theft of credit. As an example, O2's Gold Award recognised the impact of Lambie-Nairn's work on the overall look of that brand, as well as the contributions of VCCP, Zenith-Optimedia and AIS - not necessarily in that order, but welcome nonetheless.

Integration was much improved, too. The six Gold winners combined used TV, press, radio, outdoor, interactive, direct, PR and ambient. On the theme of old versus new media alone, there was sufficient evidence that digital has become part of the establishment, with VW Golf, made famous through TV, picking up a special award for Best Digital, and TV Licensing winning Best Integration. Even awards sponsor Thinkbox appeared happy, as 26 of the 30 winners kicked back at any perception that TV is no longer an effective medium.

The IPA Effectiveness Awards have, over the years, built up a powerful knowledge base of case studies that marketers may wield against any remaining doubters that advertising budget can be money well spent. This year, its armoury has been made all the more powerful by the addition of work that will have struck a chord beyond the confines of the marketing industry.

- Retail's grande dame back on top, page 16.

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