Friday, September 14, 2012

To Loerie, or not to?

The current Loeries brouhaha really stems from a rather silly and petulant banning of a journalist from attending the event. Why the organisers ever thought this was a good idea is beyond me. It isn't, wasn't, and they've suffered the consequences.

But then of course, because it put its pretty green head above the parapet, The Loeries itself got smacked.
For relevance.
For the very point of its existence.
For its methodology.
For being a business.

And seeing as my very business idea is premised on the fact that creative advertising is better than the other sort, I thought I'd stick my oar in.

Esteemed industry commentator, Chris Moerdyk, wrote a blistering article: "It's time to take a long hard look at the Loeries", that raised a number of points. One of them was, and I paraphrase here: "other than going away for a Loeries weekend and partying up a storm, The Loerie Awards have no benefits whatsoever." 

He questioned the award criteria ("Award-winning advertising is not chosen on the basis of efficiency or effectiveness but purely and simply on the gut-feel of peers. It is like choosing a car of the year because it just looks as though it can go fast and be a useful tool in helping pimply young Lotharios to pick up women. Without any consideration given to the fact that it was grossly underpowered and completely failed all known safety rating tests.") And he said that  "Statistically, 20% of all advertising not only fails but also actually damages the brand it is supposed to be promoting."

I'm making an assumption that his point is that it is the creative award winning ads which are those 20% of ads that fail in the marketplace. And the frivolity and pointlessness of the pursuit of creativity is somehow misaligned with the purposes of business.

Luckily for all of us that value innovation and progress, this is simply not true. The IPA in the UK commissioned research by Peter Field, and this is what he found: "Creativity is no longer a luxury if campaigns want to achieve business success says Peter Field in the latest IPA/Gunn report: The Link Between Creativity and Effectiveness. Over the period 1994 to 2002 creatively-awarded campaigns were around 3 times as efficient as non-awarded ones, and this number rises to 12 times more for the period 2003-2010".

The "Case for Creativity", a great book by James Hurman, combines the results of fifteen studies, over two decades, by Academics, researchers at Mckinsey and industry, which all reach the same conclusion: that creative advertising is more effective. The slideshare summary is available for download here and it makes compelling reading. But if I pull just three points out of it:

1. The more awarded the campaign, the more dramatic its business results tend to be;

2. The companies that won the Cannes Advertiser of the Year awards throughout the 2000's experienced a more than 40% growth in their share price in the period in which they won the award - the article refers to the culture of creativity and innovation being pervasive in the entire company. See slide:

3. Creative advertising is more talked about, more noticed, more recalled, more persuasive. 

And so, it has to have a higher ROI on money spent.

Is it then that the Loerie judges (who by the way, are only invited to judge based on years of experience and success), while partying their brains out and using their gut feel, somehow use a different criteria to judge these awards? Of course not. The criteria is not gut feel. The criteria specified by the Loeries are is that the ad is innovative, with new and fresh thinking; that is it excellently executed; and that it has relevance to the brand, the target audience and the chosen medium. Not too fruit-cakey that.

So back to Chris' 20% of failed advertising - I would love to venture that it is the staggering lack of bravery in this space that accounts for most of the failed advertising. Those boring, mundane and tediously un-innovative concepts that masquerade as advertising. And yet - I have seen some of those ads work. I have seen results off ads that make me want to cry. But the point that is made so well in "The Case for Creativity" is that the results would most likely have been better, had the advertising been more creative. See the slide below: creatively awarded campaigns are 10% more effective than non-creatively awarded campaigns on a high spend, and 27% more effective on low spend campaigns.


So, truthfully, what the Loeries seeks to award should be celebrated by the broader business community. What the winners do should be learned from and the practice of seeking better, innovative and fresh thinking should pervade our businesses, not be something we fear or make fun of.

Is The Loeries a business? Sure it is. I googled "Industry awards 2012" and I got 419,000,000 results.

Is it a great party? Sure it is. But I've been at Client conferences that make the Loeries look like a party with training wheels.

But more than all of this stuff about whether The Loeries should even exist when it doesn't measure effectiveness, and whether creative advertising ever works in the real world  - is the basic factor of motivation. How do we motivate creative thinkers, who as Chris Moerdyk rightly point out, are engaged in the incredibly frustrating world of having their ideas pecked to death by committees of geese everyday? 

Daniel Pink, in his essential-reading book : Drive (the surprising truth about what motivates us), draws on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, and exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does. "He demonstrates that while carrots and sticks worked successfully in the twentieth century, that’s precisely the wrong way to motivate people for today’s challenges. In Drive, he examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose". It turns out that Creative people (and these are not just in ad agencies) are motivated by these factors, more than by money and money-based incentive.  They are intrinsically motivated by the almost impossible task to do something that has never been done, the challenge, the craft. A quote from his book by Tom Kelly, GM, IDEO, is "the ultimate freedom for creative groups is the freedom to experiment with new ideas. Some skeptics insist that innovation is expensive. In the long run, innovation is cheap. Mediocrity is expensive...".

The last point I would make is this: a recent study seems to to confirm a 1993 study on what the most important criteria were to SA Marketers in the selection of an ad agency. In the 1993 study, the top two criteria were equally important: they were "creative reputation" and "understand my business". In a new study conducted by two Professors at UNISA in 2010, they found that the : "Critical selection criteria mostly include issues related to functionality, reputation and price... When advertisers appoint advertising agencies, the level of creativity is considered by 99% of respondents to be either critical (81%) or important (19%)."  How, then, in heavens name does an agency get a 'creative reputation' without entering and winning awards? It's the ad agencies' own marketing tool, using a factor that is relevant to their clients. And if it wasn't relevant, why do marketers rate it so highly?

To go back to that figure of 20% of advertising being wasted: Chris Moerdyk estimates the value of that to be R4billion a year. Imagine if, of the remaining 80%, only 10% (if that)  is as good creatively as it should or could be. That means that around R14billion's worth of SA's advertising  is mediocre. Now that is a real waste.