The Science Behind Creative Effectiveness

While the industry re-arranges the deck chairs on addressability in a cookieless media supply chain, advertisers, as a critical part of their strategy to shore up first party data and loyalty, are shifting their focus back to communications and the art of connecting with consumers to gain trust and longer-term relationships.  

In 2019, James Hurman and Peter Field on behalf of Cannes Lions and WARC, set out to crack an age-old advertising question – “What does good creative look like?” They undertook a global study involving marketing and agency leaders and discovered that there was no real universal definition of creative effectiveness. This definition gap has proven to be the source of great challenges for an industry that relies quite heavily on best practices and benchmarking as its innovative jet fuel.  

For years, agencies have worked with varying matrices and reporting systems that provide some insight into creative performance. However, the lack of consistency has made it difficult for advertisers to gauge a standardized way to evaluate their return on investments. 

After analyzing 4,863 effectiveness award entrants and winners from 2011 through 2019, from every major market in the world, Hurman and Field developed a new framework that may address the standardization of evaluation called “The Creative Effectiveness Ladder”. 

In their whitepaper (Cannes membership required) released this year, they outline how each stage can be achieved and the role each level plays in overall creative effectiveness. While the metrics used to measure each rung may be familiar, paying close attention to the timing and windows of reporting provides a tighter methodology for advertisers to incorporate into their evaluation process. 

Following is a closer look at the “Ladder”: 

Influential Idea – Metrics Within Three Months 

  • Campaign recall  
  • Social shares
  • Earned impressions  
  • Earned media value 

Behavior Breakthrough – Metrics Within Three Months and Beyond 

  • Penetration  
  • Frequency/Weight of Purchase  
  • Loyalty  
  • Trial  

Sales Spike – Metrics Within Three Months 

  • Sales  
  • Market Share 
  • ROI 

Brand Builder – Metrics Over Short Term but Recommended 6+ Months 

  • Brand Awareness  
  • Brand Preference
  • Purchase Intent  
  • Brand Attributes 

Commercial Triumph – Metrics over 6-18 Month Term 

  • Sales
  • Market Share  
  • ROI   

Enduring Icon – Metrics over a 3-Year Term 

  • Sales 
  • Market Share  
  • ROI  
  • Brand Health — Metrics pertaining to the consideration, preference and image attributes of the brand 

One of the most interesting findings from the research, is the concept of “Creative Commitment”. This is defined by the following three variables; the amount of money, time, and media channels that have been committed to a creative idea. Where creative commitment was clearly demonstrated, those campaigns largely outperformed others. There was a direct correlation between commitment and effectiveness. Confirming what IAB Canada media agency leadership has been discussing over the past few years, this implies that the now proven ways to improve marketing effectiveness are to spend more on it, run it for a longer period of time, and execute it across more media channels.  

IAB Canada’s Western Council will be hosting a Special Edition: Community Uninterrupted discussion on Creativity and the Art that meets the science in digital advertising on Oct 6. Join the conversation and register today