Here’s what drives advertising effectiveness

This partner content brought to you by… Effie Awards Canada 

Australian marketing and branding expert Mark Ritson was the big draw at thinktv’s “Media, Marketing & Effectiveness” conference last week, with a presentation highlighting the 10 key drivers of advertising effectiveness.

His more than 90-minute presentation was based on analysis of nearly 6,000 Effie Awards case studies dating back to the late 1990s. Entering their 51st year—and second in Canada—the Effies continue to represent the “gold standard” for marketing effectiveness, he said.

“The Effies are awarded on the basis not of who’s got the nicest brand [and] who’s got the best creative, but whose work had the most impact and ultimate effect,” said Ritson, noting that wining a Grand Effie can be “career making” for brands and agencies.

With the deadline for Effie Canada 2020 approaching, Ritson’s talk was particularly relevant for Canadian brands and agencies preparing their submissions. “The launch of Effie Canada in 2019 demonstrated how much world-class work is being produced in Canada,” said Arthur Fleischmann, Effie Canada 2020 chairperson, and Group CEO of Ogilvy and john st. “And Effie Canada 2020 promises to be even better. We’re planning a new event format to reach a wider audience and create an interactive and engaging experience. Plus, we’re working with our Effie Worldwide partners on a new initiative to put the best of Canada on the global stage.” 

For those working on their entries, here’s a quick overview of some of the contributors to effectiveness Ritson provided during his  presentation.

Be specific with strategic objectives

Ritson said that too often, brand objectives range from vague C-suite driven business aspirations (become the #1 brand in the market or reverse a sales decline), to being overly tactical (get 400,000 social mentions).

The key to effective advertising, he said, is developing highly specific and detailed pre-campaign objectives, such as increasing consideration of a brand among blue-collar workers from 15% to 65% by June 2016. This was an actual objective used by Dare Iced Coffee in Australia that led to a Grand Effie award, he said.

“Even if it’s not the right objective and even if you don’t achieve it, you’re already in the top 20% of brand managers, because most have forgotten to do this,” he said. “They have no strategy behind the campaign.”

Ritson’s research suggested that effectiveness scores tended to peak among campaigns with two or three well-stated objectives, and tailed off with subsequent additions.

What channel? All of them

Ritson’s analysis of the Effies submissions suggested an obvious link between the number of channels used in a campaign and its effectiveness, with effectiveness scores rising with each new channel added to the mix.

“The answer to the ridiculous debate that we’ve had for the past decade about which medium is better is ‘all of them,'” he said. “We called it a campaign for a reason: It was lots of different weapons combined together in a single force.”

Ritson cited a study of 3,200 campaigns that ran in the U.S. between 2010 and 2015 conducted by Analytic Partners. It found that when controlled for budget, the ROI of a campaign using two channels was 19% higher than that of a campaign using a single channel, while the ROI for campaigns using three channels versus one was 23%, four channels 31% and five channels 35%.

Combining TV with online video, he said, will “almost certainly” yield a better outcome than investing solely in one or the other.

The long and short of it

While Ritson’s analysis suggested that effectiveness tends to increase in lockstep with campaign duration, he cautioned marketers that the key is to move from the “tyranny of ‘or’ to the generosity of ‘and.'”

To illustrate his point, Ritson shared a quote from a presentation by Pepsico’s CFO, Hugh Johnston: “Any idiot can do short-term. Any idiot can do long term. The trick is to do both.”

Both short- and long-term approaches to marketing have their place, said Ritson, with the optimal split between brand-building and tactical focused work varying by category: From 80:20 in the financial services category, for example, to 60:40 in the FMCG category and 51:49 in B2B.

The bigger question, he said, is why are so many brands failing to act despite evidence that a long-term approach to marketing can benefit a brand.

In a recent survey conducted by the Financial Times and EffWorks, one-third of global C-suite executives said that the reporting cycles for marketing performance are getting shorter. Short-termism, said Ritson, “is everywhere around us.”

The reason, he said, is that most marketers see the world in windows of less than 12 months, which means they only see the immediate impact (3X ROI!!) that tends to accompany short-term tactical marketing.

The long-term, he said, should not be viewed as an aggregation of a series of 12-month windows. “Five years planning is not five one-year [segments] stitched together,” he said. “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing things right.”

The deadline to enter Effie Canada 2020 is November 29. Enter today at 


Chris Powell