AGENDA: Ads are not just about selling - Criticism about a public service campaign winning the Grand Prix at the IPA Effectiveness Awards has rekindled arguments about how the sector measures whether ads are working. Harriet Marsh reports

Awards evenings are rarely entirely harmonious and last week’s dinner to announce the winners of the bi-annual Advertising Effectiveness Awards, run by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, proved no exception. Indeed, barely was the envelope torn open to reveal the Health Education Authority as the winner of the Grand Prix for its Drugs Education Campaign, than whispered criticism started over the validity of the evidence provided to demonstrate its effectiveness.

Awards evenings are rarely entirely harmonious and last week’s

dinner to announce the winners of the bi-annual Advertising

Effectiveness Awards, run by the Institute of Practitioners in

Advertising, proved no exception. Indeed, barely was the envelope torn

open to reveal the Health Education Authority as the winner of the Grand

Prix for its Drugs Education Campaign, than whispered criticism started

over the validity of the evidence provided to demonstrate its

effectiveness.



The HEA’s campaign focused on raising awareness of the health hazards

associated with drugs, and was targeted at teenagers and young

adults.



With such a public service remit, the agency was required to look beyond

sales figures and profit levels when it came to proving its

effectiveness.



The evidence provided (see box) included some figures which seemed to

some in the audience to stretch the bounds of credulity just a little

too far. Stefano Hatfield, editor of Campaign, writing in The Times last

week, said: ’The winning paper cited as ’evidence’ pounds 28m being

diverted from the black economy, saving industry pounds 11m a year in

lost working days and pounds 3m on drug education. There were also said

to be ’savings’ on the long-term cost of treating people who ’might’

have had Ecstasy-related depression. It is this kind of statistical

manipulation that gives politicians a bad name.’ He was not alone at the

event, or after it, in questioning some of the claims.



But it is not the first time that the Advertising Effectiveness Awards

have caused friction. Two years ago, when BT was awarded the Grand Prix

for the ’It’s good to talk’ campaign, the critics complained that a

company spending pounds 35m on advertising could not fail to outgun its

rivals when it came to influencing consumers.



Awards criticism



As one industry commentator, contacted for this piece, quipped, there

has yet to be an advertising award with which someone hasn’t taken

umbrage.



But is it justified? None of those present at the Awards dinner last

week, except the judging panel, had read the 4000 word paper which won

the HEA and Duckworth Finn Grubb Waters the Grand Prix. The papers will

not be widely available until publication of the winning documents, by

the IPA, at the end of January. Consequently, many people are likely to

agree with Winston Fletcher, chairman of the Bozell UK Group, who is

opting to reserve his judgement: ’There are pros and cons associated

with a public service campaign winning,’ he says. ’The pros are that it

highlights advertising’s contribution to important social issues and

that is a worthwhile and significant thing to do. The cons are that it

is a special case and cannot be evaluated in terms of straightforward

sales increases as with a commercial campaign.’



Tim Broadbent, managing partner and head of planning at Young & Rubicam

and deputy convenor of the judges at this year’s awards, is emphatic

that the campaign deserved its success: ’The judging process was more

thorough and critical this year than at any other IPA Effectiveness

Awards. Any paper getting through both stages of the process has gone

through rigorous selection processes.’



Advertising effectiveness and how it is measured has long been the

subject of intense debate. The impact made by advertising on consumer

attitudes and perceptions is not easily quantifiable: ’People know

advertising can work,’ says Nick Kendall, the convenor of judges and

group planning director at Bartle Bogle Hegarty. ’But the question

remains how can we improve our chances of making advertising work and

how can we show it works. These papers show people how to improve their

practices. It is not a debate which is ever going to reach a

solution.’



The industry is becoming more able to demonstrate the effectiveness of

advertising and the IPA has been working to broadcast its message beyond

the confines of the advertising and marketing industries. In the two

years since the last IPA Effectiveness Awards there have been some

changes to the way in which the Awards are judged. For the first time

the judging team has been divided into two groups, the first comprised

of six industry specialists - including experts in econometrics and

brand valuation - who were asked to shortlist papers on the basis of

technical merit and the validity and quality of the cases put forward.

The second, a group of seven senior clients, made the final selections,

overseen by Broadbent and Kendall. The amount of client input into the

Awards has been unprecedented, and has for the first time included high

profile chairmen and company directors from outside the marketing

discipline. In the selection of the Grand Prix winner, it was client

jury chairman Lord Marshall of British Airways who cast the deciding

vote in the HEA’s favour.



Change of criteria



This is not the only change which has been made to the way the Awards

are designed over the past two years. This year a greater emphasis has

been placed on taking into account not only the effect of advertising on

the consumers in terms of sales per pound spent, but on what IPA

president Graham Hinton describes as ’other key stakeholders’. These

include the City, the employees and all those indirectly affected by a

brand-building campaign.



Perceived in this context the HEA, which provided information on the

indirect impact of its campaign across other government support

services, and Orange which won the Charles Channon Award for the impact

its advertising had on City perception of its brand (see box), can be

seen to be contributing new information on how advertising effectiveness

is judged.



’One of the reasons the (HEA) paper got the award was for innovative use

of research,’ says Broadbent. ’We hope other entrants will read this

paper and see that it is a very thorough piece of research.’



Yet there is also also an awareness within the industry that some

entrants to the IPA Awards do include methodology which stretches

credibility: ’If I had put forward that (HEA) paper and somebody had

commented in a negative way I could guarantee to pick up other papers

and find flawed figures because some of the methodology used is absurd,’

says Steve Williamson, director of finance and business planning at

SmithKline Beecham Healthcare and a first-time judge.



Despite this Williamson supports the moves made to look beyond the

commercial effects of advertising: ’This year’s award is not just about

bottom line profit and market share. Some of the points in the cases

were well put, some were poorly put, but overall the judging panel has

to come to the view that it is about effectiveness to all its

stakeholders.’



Across the industry there is a view that calculating advertising

effectiveness is an indirect science. ’Even with FMCG goods it is often

hard to point to a straight line which says advertising achieved this in

this year,’ says Paul Edwards, chief executive of the Henley Centre.



As this year’s introduction of a ’star’ system, in place of category

winners indicates, the IPA, with its Awards ceremony, has set out to

limit the emphasis on winning and losing and instead encourage the

advertising industry and marketers to improve their understanding of how

advertising can impact upon a marketplace.



As the UK hovers on the brink of a recession, both the marketing

community and the advertising industry may be glad of this information

when it comes to presenting a case for maintaining vulnerable

advertising budgets.



Advertising’s power



Some of the information included in IPA Effectiveness Awards entries may

be an overly optimistic interpretation of reality. Yet these Awards are

valuable in promoting the importance of advertising outside the

marketing community: ’Sitting on the judges’ panel has persuaded me that

advertising has an important role to play in the development of a brand

or business, although there are other factors at play,’ says Williamson.

’I learnt an awful lot from the exercise.’



The decision, by seven of the UK’s top businessman, to award the Grand

Prix to the HEA, suggests that senior businessmen are beginning to

appreciate the holistic nature of advertising:



’The judges understood the value of advertising in terms of consumers,

and would expect to see a payback, where appropriate, in terms of

sales,’ says Kendall. ’But they also understood that advertising is a

more powerful tool than that.



The HEA judgement was made on two criteria. They talked about a torch

test for advertising; if you can change people’s behaviour in this

market, it proves that advertising can do a lot for any commercial

brand. Second, they were interested in the fact that it helped

co-ordinate the message internally with the HEA. They found it easy to

relate the concept to their own services companies.’



Ultimately, the issue is about the role and power of advertising. It is

often argued that advertising has a social role and responsibility and

that it is not all about shifting product off shelves. No client or

agency has found the Holy Grail of measuring advertising

effectiveness.



The HEA, say its supporters, should not be judged more harshly than a

commercial campaign.



CASE STUDY: HEA



Winner of the Grand Prix for the most outstanding paper



The HEA’s campaign, through Duckworth Finn Grubb Waters, set out, with a

budget of pounds 2.3m, to reduce demand for drugs among teenagers and

young people. The strategy was to penetrate what it described as the

’fortress’ of youth culture to educate young people about the health

risks associated with drugs such as Ecstasy and LSD.



’Know the Score’ was the creative which followed. It married images of

young people with the effects different drugs could have on their

bodies. It avoided a preachy tone, instead offering hard and objective

factual information. But did it do what the paper claimed? The IPA

awards are judged on evidence of effectiveness rather than creativity,

and public sector campaigns, which can offer no information on

traditional measures of effectiveness such as sales or profit increases,

can find this data difficult to provide.



’We’re dealing with something unlike other products and therefore sales

data is not a perfect science. The judges have looked at the evidence as

presented and been happy with it. We are at pains to say we do not know,

and nobody knows, the definitive value for drugs use in this country and

those restrictions were understood,’ said Charles Gallichan, head of

advertising at the HEA.



CASE STUDY: ORANGE



Winner of the Charles Channon Award for the best contribution to new

learning



This paper set out to demonstrate the effect WCRS’s advertising on the

City and financial market’s perception of Orange’s brand and the

consequential impact on its share price. In the face of increased

competition Orange opted to forgo price cuts and focus on using

advertising to build the perceived value of the brand, both with

consumers and within the financial markets to boost share price.



WCRS’s paper claims that, since flotation, advertising has contributed

to 15.27% of additional subscribers, equivalent to a lifetime value of

pounds 144.34m. Customer loyalty has also improved, by an average of

3.43 months, equivalent to additional earning security of pounds

102.6m.



Most significantly, however, Orange and WCRS set out to provide a

quantitative valuation of advertising’s impact upon shareholder value,

aided by Lehman Brothers. The latter calculated that the current implied

value of Orange stock was 528p (compared with a current market value of

443p).



The same methodology was used to evaluate that, without advertising’s

effect on subscriber growth, customer revenue and churn, the implied

value per share would be just 279p.Thus the agency can claim to have

boosted Orange’s implied share value by 249p, equivalent to increased

market capitalisation of pounds 3bn.



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