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The link between creativity and effectiveness

Proving the business value and effectiveness of creativity in advertising has long been something difficult to achieve. However, Thinkbox and the IPA did just that in this study which brought together findings from The Gunn Report and the IPA Effectiveness Databank.

In Brief

This research, commissioned by Thinkbox and the IPA, was undertaken by independent marketing consultant Peter Field. The study is a fusion of the Gunn Report database of creatively-awarded campaigns with the IPA Effectiveness Databank to examine the link between creativity and effectiveness. First published in 2010, and updated in 2011, the analysis covers 435 campaigns over a sixteen year period between 1994 and 2010.

The findings revealed a direct correlation between strong advertising creativity and business success, and that high levels of creativity make advertising campaigns some 12 times more efficient at increasing a brand’s market share.

Here you can find out about the project’s background and read the management summary. To purchase a copy of the full IPA report, please visit the IPA website.

Key Points

  • Between 2003 and 2010 creatively-awarded campaigns were 12 times more efficient than non-awarded campaigns
  • The more creatively awarded a campaign the more effective it becomes
  • The new study continues to demonstrate the success of emotional communications models amongst creatively awarded campaigns (47% vs 35% for non-awarded campaigns)
  • Investing in creativity is a powerful way to achieve fame (i.e. buzz)
  • The vast majority of Gunn Report creative award scores (77%) are for TV ads

In Depth

Introduction

Creative awards are still often seen as a distraction from the business of selling. Although there have been signs that attitudes have begun to move in favour of creative awards in recent years, by no means all advertisers believe that they hold any commercial value.

This is not an academic debate. As advertisers are forced to look ever harder for an advantage in their marketing communications, creative awards have the potential to provide a constructive stimulus to agencies – if it is indeed true that the winning of creative awards is linked to superior effectiveness.

By bringing together two gold standard resources in their respective fields – the Gunn Report database of creatively-awarded campaigns with the IPA Effectiveness Databank – this project aimed to shed new light on the question and hopefully to answer it convincingly.

The Gunn Report compiles the winners, since 1999, from the most important and respected creative awards competitions around the world: some global, some regional and some national. Awards from the plethora of lesser creative competitions are not included. The awards cover TV & cinema, print, online and integrated multi-channel campaigns. Gunn Report scores therefore reflect the performance of a campaign across these competitions and channels; in this analysis only the total scores have been used, as the volume of data does not yet allow us to reliably examine the contributions of creativity in individual channels. Inevitably TV constitutes the largest element of Gunn Report scores with 74%: the remaining points are spread across print and online.

The IPA databank compiles hard effectiveness data on all entrants to the biennial IPA Effectiveness Awards competition: some 257 different campaigns over the 2000-2008 awards competitions that are contemporaneous with the Gunn Report data. The data reports the nature and circumstances of each campaign and its effects in comparable format and allows us to rate campaigns on a number of effectiveness dimensions. The fusion of the two databases therefore, allowed us to compare levels of creativity with levels of effectiveness to an extent that has not previously been possible.

The IPA and The Gunn Report are grateful for the support of Thinkbox for this project.

Janet Hull
IPA Director of Marketing

Management Summary (2010 report)

This report drew on analysis of the results of fusing the Gunn Report database of creatively-awarded campaigns with the IPA Effectiveness Databank to examine the link between creativity and effectiveness. The analysis compared the scale of hard business effects achieved by the creatively-awarded campaigns in the IPA Databank with the non-awarded campaigns.

Although the two groups of campaigns being compared were matched in most respects, in one important respect they were not: the non-awarded campaigns received much greater relative levels of media support. This tended to mask the headline effects of creativity on effectiveness, but has been allowed for in the analysis to reveal the true underlying effect.

The analysis demonstrated a very strong link between creativity and effectiveness:

  • Creatively-awarded IPA campaigns are more effective than non-awarded ones despite lower levels of Excess Share of Voice or ESOV (share of voice minus share of market).
  • There is a very strong link between creativity and effectiveness when ESOV levels are taken into account.
  • Creatively-awarded campaigns are 11 times more efficient than non-awarded ones in terms of the level of market share growth they drive per point of ESOV.
  • If the creatively-awarded campaigns in the IPA Databank had enjoyed the same level of ESOV as the non-awarded campaigns, they would have resulted in two times more market share growth than the non-awarded campaigns achieved. The difference in terms of return on investment is likely to be much greater than this.
  • Creatively-awarded campaigns appear to achieve their greater effectiveness levels with much greater certainty than the non-awarded campaigns: they are more reliable investments.
  • For equivalent levels of investment, creatively-awarded campaigns achieve broader levels of success across greater numbers of business metrics beyond share growth.
  • The greater the level of creativity (i.e. the more major creative awards a campaign wins) the greater the level of effectiveness
  • The link between creativity and effectiveness appears to be driven to a significant degree by two important factors: 
  1. The preponderance of emotional communications models amongst creatively awarded campaigns (emotional campaigns have been shown elsewhere to be strongly linked to effectiveness).
  2. The much greater ‘buzz’ effects of creatively-awarded campaigns (buzz has also been shown elsewhere to be strongly linked with effectiveness). It is an innate quality of highly creative advertising and cannot be bought through media expenditure.

Update June 2011: the impact of creativity on effectiveness increases

The 2010 report described above analysed 257 campaigns over a ten year period (1998-2008). In June 2011 Peter Field expanded the analysis to examine 435 campaigns over a sixteen year period (1994-2010). The analysis examined both effectiveness (a campaign’s ability to drive business effects such as share, sales, profit and loyalty) and the efficiency (share growth per point of Extra Share of Voice) of creatively awarded and non-awarded campaigns. Here is summary of the findings from Peter’s expanded study.

Updated findings:

  • Between 2003 and 2010 creatively-awarded campaigns were 12 times more efficient. (This compares to the 2010 report which showed that between 1998-2008 campaigns were 11 times more efficient).
  • There is a pronounced time trend - creatively awarded campaigns are becoming more efficient over time, whilst non-awarded campaigns are becoming less so. Over the second half of the period creatively awarded campaigns were 12 times as efficient compared to only three times during the first half.
  • The much greater ‘buzz’ effects of creatively-awarded campaigns appears to be why they are becoming more effective: in the multichannel world creativity is becoming more closely associated with buzz leaving non-awarded campaigns struggling, (buzz is strongly linked to effectiveness).
  • The proportion of creatively-awarded campaigns achieving top box 'fame' (i.e buzz scores) scores has risen dramatically over time from 28% pre-2004 to 70% subsequently. Meanwhile non-awarded campaigns have only increased from 18% to 29%. (See fig 18 on the fame gap).
  • Creatively-awarded campaigns are more effective than non-awarded ones despite lower levels of Extra Share of Voice (ESOV). When ESOV levels are taken into account there is a very strong link between creativity and effectiveness.
  • The case for investing - the benefit of creativity increases dramatically as the budget rises. With the same level of ESOV creatively awarded campaigns would have driven twice as much market share growth as non-awarded ones.
  • Highly creative campaigns are more reliable investments.
  • TV constitutes the largest element of Gunn Report scores used in this analysis (77%), followed by press and online. Internet creative awards are taking a rapidly growing proportion (8% over the 2008-2010 period).
  • Creatively-awarded campaigns achieve broader levels of success across greater numbers of business metrics beyond share growth, strong on both volume and value.
  • The more creatively awarded a campaign the more effective it becomes. The new study shows that campaigns picking up five or more major creative awards were around three times as efficient as campaigns picking up 1-4 major awards.
  • The new study continues to demonstrate the preponderance of emotional communications models amongst creatively awarded campaigns (47% vs 35% for non-awarded campaigns).

General findings include:

  • Creatively-awarded campaigns are more effective than non-awarded ones despite lower levels of Extra Share of Voice (ESOV). When ESOV levels are taken into account there is a very strong link between creativity and effectiveness.
  • The case for investing - the benefit of creativity increases dramatically as the budget rises. With the same level of ESOV creatively awarded campaigns would have driven twice as much market share growth as non-awarded ones.
  • Highly creative campaigns are more reliable investments.
  • TV constitutes the largest element of Gunn Report scores used in this analysis (77%), followed by press and online. Internet creative awards are taking a rapidly growing proportion (8% over the 2008-2010 period).
  • Creatively-awarded campaigns achieve broader levels of success across greater numbers of business metrics beyond share growth, strong on both volume and value.
  • The more creatively awarded a campaign the more effective it becomes. The new study shows that campaigns picking up five or more major creative awards were around three times as efficient as campaigns picking up 1-4 major awards.
  • The new study continues to demonstrate the preponderance of emotional communications models amongst creatively awarded campaigns (47% vs 35% for non-awarded campaigns).

You can purchase the updated report in full, from the IPA here.

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