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Effectiveness Brand Strategy Marketing

Retiring IPA effectiveness pioneer Janet Hull on her battle to prove marketing’s worth

By Janet Hull

May 24, 2023 | 10 min read

Janet Hull, the ground-breaking, and now retiring, director of marketing strategy of the IPA reflects on her 20-year mission to make the industry more accountable and show its real worth.

IPA's Janet Hull

When I first joined the IPA back in 2003 I was given a one-line brief: “Take effectiveness mainstream”. I’m glad that, with the support of the IPA Effectiveness Leadership Group and our many partners and allies I’ve been able to take it this far. Which leads me to ask myself, as I work toward my retirement, what one-line brief I might like to give my successor?

There’s no doubt that since the turn of the millennium marketing effectiveness has become more complex. The average number of channels used by award-winning IPA Effectiveness cases is now 13, much higher than when we started earnestly recording this. Furthermore, the number and range of advertising formats online continue to evolve and not always in ways that enhance brand-building. Retail media and social e-commerce are providing shiny new opportunities for performance marketing.

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Meanwhile, the wider context for marketing effectiveness is not helping either. Although big investors like Blackrock and Warren Buffet are arguing for sustainability and a return to long-term business thinking, short-termism is creeping into boardrooms. Investment in start-ups and scale-ups is beginning to dwindle.

And the economic climate doesn’t help build confidence. The cost-of-living crisis and the war in Ukraine combine to curtail both demand and supply. And the influence of technology is growing exponentially. AI threatens to take the world even more left-brained with risks to jobs and businesses. The battle is on.

Serious investment in brand-building has never been more necessary to sort out winners from losers. Recognition of the economic value of intangible assets is growing. Interest in marketing investment as a contributor to intangible value creation is being worked on now by the Bank of England and the ONS. It’s time for marketers and agencies to raise their game.

And this is how some are doing exactly this…

Mindset and metrics

It was just last Friday that I was in a briefing meeting with the judging panel for IPA Effectiveness Accreditation 2023, in the company of a 12-strong group of high caliber CMOs, Consultants and Academics, chaired by marketer of the year and ISBA president, Margaret Jobling, CMO NatWest Group.

We think this latest initiative in our Marketing Effectiveness program will be a game changer. Our panel was not only keen to give back to the industry but also to learn from the process for themselves. Because they, like us, recognize that, when it comes to marketing making a difference, it’s as much about mindset as metrics.

Marketing effectiveness is driven by the belief that brand-building is the most reliable route to sustainable profitable growth for businesses and organizations. Marketing effectiveness means the management of evidence-based decision-making at every stage in the development process: from inputs to outputs to outcomes. As the four pillars of our effectiveness accreditation framework show, it requires appropriate focus, process, people, data, tools and measurement. It's not just about what to do it’s also about how to do it well.

Showing the evidence

Over the years the IPA has built an evidence base of almost 2000 IPA Effectiveness award entries, six IPA Databank publications and 20 IPA EffWorks R&D projects in support of this ambition. Thanks to the unparalleled work of Binet and Field, Cassidy and Wood, and others, we’ve been able to provide coaching in best practice and develop a learning program unrivaled in the world. If you aren’t familiar with IPA works like ‘The Long and the Short of It’, ‘Effectiveness in Context’, ‘Building Bridges with Finance’ and ‘Lemon’, I can recommend them to you.

We favor measurement systems that allow for competitive analysis and provide relative measures of strength and weakness between brands and businesses in order to evaluate overall performance: share of voice for budget setting, the share of attention for media and creative execution, the share of search as a predictor of movements in market share, the share of experience across paid, owned and earned. When it comes to optimization our yardstick is not how something works in isolation but how it all works together. We promote econometrics as a business process for measuring manifold effects, beyond just last click and ROI. and are a huge fan of its use for business wargames and scenario planning, raising the profile of the role of marketing communications in the context of other marketing and business levers.

It’s gratifying to see how many companies and academics the world over are using our principles of marketing effectiveness and rules of thumb. And how often we are invited to provide speakers for C-suite and marketing team briefings. Where else can you get a better education in marketing these days?

So little by little, our learning is getting through, and we are beginning to deliver on our objectives. To create a global marketing effectiveness movement united by a common language and ambition. Created and peer-reviewed by the industry for the industry. Promoted to business decision-makers through our global advertising campaign in partnership with the FT. Focused on actions and measurements that make a difference. For commercial and social good.

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In the know, Diageo

Diageo leads the way in putting our program of work into practice and reaping the benefit. A long-term IPA Effectiveness Leadership Group champion and member, Diageo were awarded Effectiveness Client of the Year in the 2020 IPA Effectiveness Awards when they submitted their case entry for ‘Marketing Catalyst’. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read it, I urge you to do so.

It epitomizes the ideal our program is driving toward: marketing and analytics clients working together with their portfolio of agencies to develop an operating system and learning program that can win C-suite approval and provide the rationale for increasing marketing investment in brand-building... with the promise of greater returns in revenue and share of course. What’s notable is how the system provides the collective memory and continuity the business needs to optimize marketing decision-making over both the short and long term, whatever other changes are afoot. We think it provides a key to the future.

The summary of the entry distills the case down to its core components. In 2016, Diageo committed to delivering an incremental £100m in profit from marketing within three years via an initiative encompassing its wide brand portfolio. The approach was applied to its many brands such as Guinness, Baileys and Smirnoff, and to both mature and developing markets including the Americas, Africa, and Australia. Approaches to data were standardized. Marketing Catalyst, a bespoke tool to advise marketers on effective spending, and Creative Sparks, a program to refocus staff on creative excellence, were used to embed marketing effectiveness into the company culture. It is estimated that the initiative produced more than twice its £100m target, returned its investment 16 times over, and enabled Diageo to widen the scope of effective measurement from brands accounting for 30% of its marketing spend to 90%.

In reviewing the case entry, former Diageo chief marketing officer Syl Saller, commented: “Our marketing effectiveness program has changed the fabric of marketing, reinforcing our role as business leaders first and foremost, agitating for better business outcomes. We have a deeper understanding of how to create the conditions for creativity and have a learning mindset. We understand how it all works and are comfortable with the integration of measurement and magic.”

This leads me to my one-line recommendation.

Take marketing effectiveness upstream.

Like Diageo is doing already.

The C-suite, the investment community and government, are more concerned than ever about where business and economic growth will come from. The good news is that the framework we have created for Effectiveness Accreditation together with our EffWorks learning can help get you there. Long may it continue.

Janet Hull is director of marketing strategy at the IPA.

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