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What To Prioritise For Effectiveness In 2020?

8 min read.

Shane Doyle, Group Strategic Director

by Shane Doyle, Group Strategic Director

Core Strategy

In 2020, IAPI, the representative body for advertising agencies in Ireland is joining the Effie network and replacing the existing advertising effectiveness awards (the ADFX awards) with the Effie Awards in Ireland. If they weren’t already a top priority, this changeover in effectiveness awards prompts us to think about the drivers of effectiveness.

In 2019, a group of collaborators, led by Mark Ritson, analysed 5,900 Effie Awards entries in order to learn what the drivers were.1 While ten are listed in their analysis, we believe that there are three of paramount importance for marketers to prioritise and get right in 2020:



The first of these drivers is creating and leveraging clear brand codes. Brand identities are not just made up of a name, a logo and a product; they are a collection of codes built over time to help recognition. Shapes, patterns, icons, packaging and fluent devices (characters or elements that recur in a brand’s advertising to speed up brand recognition) all powerfully evoke a brand. Ritson’s work puts brand codes as the third leading driver of effectiveness after brand size and creativity. The work demonstrates that brands typically underuse these codes, and analysis of Effie winners shows that those who co-ordinate and effectively leverage their codes benefit greatly.

The media landscape is becoming more and more cluttered. By 2021, adults

in Ireland will see just under 3,000 advertisements a week.2 In this environment, speed of brand recognition and salience are critical. Marketers and their agencies need to audit their codes, discard those that cause confusion, or are generic to the category, and heavily leverage those that deliver recognition and stand out.

Brands in more restricted media environments (such as categories governed by a watershed rule) need to invest in building fluent devices that allow them to ensure salience in the remaining communications canvas they have.




The debates around mass marketing versus targeted communication and long-term versus short-term approaches are well documented. The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute has made its case for ‘always on’ mass marketing.

Extensive research also exists on the need to strike a careful balance between long-term and short-term campaigns. There is a need to build your brand over the longer term and there is a need to convert people in buying situations with more tactically orientated action.

Both are needed, but what is more, both are needed in co-ordination. Ritson refers to it as a two-speed brand plan. However, this suggests that the two streams run in certain lanes and don’t cross over. Our belief is that both strands effectively ‘charge’ each other in a continuous cycle. The tactical stream’s effectiveness in conversion is heightened because of the amplifying effect of the longer-term brand-building work.

Equally, the short-term activation allows the brand to continuously build salience, even when large brand-building campaigns are not live.

In 2020, brands not only need to think about the ratio of the brand activity to tactical activity, they also need to look at how these two systems interact and feed each other so that both are optimised. Getting the interaction of these two speeds right is at the heart of today’s effective marketing. At the very least, these two systems should not be in conflict, and at best the tactical activity should convert longer-term brand equity without eroding it.



Our third priority is the one which really comes first chronologically, and it concerns proper diagnosis before action. With a migration over the last decade to digital channels, we have reached a point in marketing where many brands can consider themselves ‘information rich’. The danger is that many of them are also ‘understanding poor’.

Short-term metrics lead to short-term thinking in communications and the measurement of impact. However, another potential pitfall for brands is the failure to conduct proper problem diagnosis. Marketing is a tool to grow your business, and marketing strategy should support the overall business strategy.

The two are interdependent. Pivotal to a successful marketing plan is the correct diagnosis of a problem that the business is currently experiencing; once identified, marketing efforts can then work to resolve the problem.

Ritson et al’s analysis of Effie entries concluded that relatively few campaigns outlined their true strategic objectives. The aims were more likely to be outlined in tactical goals. While Ritson does not conclude that there were no strategic goals, the fact that they are not properly articulated and placed front and centre is worrying, but possibly not surprising.

We believe in investing as much time and effort as possible in diagnosing the central issue that the business experiences so that marketing can optimise its impact. This may seem obvious, but it is not a given.

Putting thought into the heart of a problem and most importantly, putting numbers around its existence and its effect are some of the most fruitful uses of a marketer’s time. This level of analysis allows goals to be clear and well-grounded, efforts to be co-ordinated around the true battle, time to be saved in creative development through clarity and most of all, it allows success to be genuinely measured.


We believe that focussing on these three drivers of effectiveness will help us to gain wins for our clients in 2020.


1. The Top Ten Drivers of Marketing Effectiveness from the Effie Awards – and Beyond, WARC, 2019
2. AdDynamix, Neilsen, Comscore, TGI, Core Data, August 2018


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