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  2012 Effie Report


The nice Effies people kindly asked me [and bunch of other people] to write some thoughts based on their analysis of the Effie winners this year.

So I did. And here it is.

Separately, the lovely people at WARC approached me with an idea to surface some of the excellent research and papers they house around a theme in some blog posts. 

[Do you know Warc?

Formerly known as the World Advertising Research Centre? I've been suprised a few times over here when planners hadn't been aware of Warc. It's super useful.

A huge database of advertising research, all the Effies papers, business results, thought pieces, trend reports, case studies.

All that jazz.] 

This presented a wonderful opportunity, so each point is illustrated with links to the WARC database should you want to explore it further.

Warc offers a free trial if your agency doesn't subscribe. 


In an industry where accolades are bestowed, for the most part, by peer review and creative judgment, we leave ourselves open to the obvious charge that we forget what we are here for.

Give thanks, then, for the Effies, which honor the effectiveness of the work we do in creating value for clients. I mean value here very specifically, in the sense of dollars and cents required to get it out the door, that shows, overall, that the investment [in money and time and sweat and tears...but mostly the money] were recouped and returned upon with interest.

The Effie analysis unpicks some of the drivers of efficacy among the finalists this year. What differentiates those that won a medal from those that were pipped at the post? As I was reminded – all the shortlisted have demonstrated efficacy to some level, so what separates the great from the good?

1. Start with business objectives.

Effectiveness is simply the capability of producing a desired result. Since we are looking to make clients money, it makes sense to start with those objectives and then parse them into marketing, into behavior. Keeping financial, and your own innovative, KPIs in mind seems to make the work, work.

Gold Effie Winner: Boston Pizza: Flatties and Drummies increase wing sales by 50% during NHL playoffs.

[Smart objectives: Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time bound.]

2. Do some [interesting, useful] research.

I have a number of epistemological issues with how most marketing research is done, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in research. It’s crucial that we base our solutions to client problems on cogent data and behavioral observation, as we attempt to craft persuasive symbols and actions that interact with social and economic forces we are only just beginning to truly understand.

Silver Effie: Febreze / Ambi Pur: Breathe Happy Global Campaign - Immersive research plan, olfactory testing, deprivation experiments, in home, accompanied shopping.

3. Believe in strategy.

Despite certain vocal members of our industry declaiming the death of strategy, the analysis is very clear:

“The most salient characteristic defining gold...was the quality of the strategy.”

So don’t listen to people who say it is dead. Indeed, anyone using the "death of" narrative should be considered with caution.

Strategy crafts business solutions leveraging compelling insight into human behaviour and cultural context, informing the need for and role of advertising. Some thoughts here on how strategy is evolving beyond account planning from the Chiat award analysis.

4. “Boldness has genius, power and magic in it” [Goethe].

The David vs. Goliath narrative over indexes for finalists. We all love an underdog, but perhaps more importantly we should understand that big, [and, sigh, ok—hairy] audacious goals are, like the promise to get to the moon, both galvanizing and effective.

Gold Effie: Chobani: A Love Story About Yogurt Chobani tackles the market leaders head on.

5. Integration means the inter-operation of parts, not one idea in many places.

The analysis makes the distinction between “woven” and just “layered” media. We are increasingly in the age of systems and the inter-operation of parts to create a larger whole, rather than media that is “added together.”

Silver Effie: Buffalo Wild Wings: Flavor Fanatics - No dead ends, each element is different but builds and feeds other elements - and reminds us that increasingly integration is also about participation...which leads us to...

6. Do it, ideally with the community, don’t just say it.

As Millward Brown states:

“The era of claim-based advertising, while not entirely gone, is certainly not winning Effie awards.”

The much vaunted era of engagement is upon us, but the onus is, as ever, on us to find compelling ways to earn that engagement.

Gold EuroComm: @sweden: Curators of Sweden - what better way to communicate how socially liberal and fundamentally democratic Sweden, globally, for almost no money, than give the country's @ to its people? 

7. Be awesome.

Okay this wasn’t in the data, but in a world driven by sharing, if it doesn’t spread it’s dead, and awesomeness, the emotion of awe, is what drives the most spread.

Gold Effie: Troy Public Library: Book Burning Party Lying isn't cool, but they found a way to get a community to action with a message that spread by strategically reframing the debate. Increasingly, PR, earning attention, hacking culture, is a required consideration. 


You can read the whole report and all the commentary pieces courtesy of the Effies. 

The pdf version of the Effie Report is now available: Download The 2012 Effie Report

 And you can get smarter about advertising in general on Warc