Awards and Events in association withCreative Circle

Reach and Popularity Must Be Teamed With Commercial Measure

Associations, Award Shows and Festivals
New York, USA
MRM Europe CCO and chairwoman Nicky Bullard on the best measures of effectiveness and how to overcome creative challenges

AME Awards, the effectiveness focused award show from New York Festivals, has partnered with Little Black Book to sponsor the Awards & Events channel. This channel is a place for general news about award wins and any events being held, but it's also a place to discuss the trends impacting and changing award shows, such a prevalent part of our industry.

As part of this partnership, we'll be interviewing some of the advertising industry's brightest minds and most revered leaders on the meaning of effectiveness in 2021 and beyond, the advertising awards landscape of the future, and just about anything and everything that might come up along the way.

In this interview, MRM Europe CCO and chairwoman Nicky Bullard discusses her favourite piece of effective advertising and how she sees the future of awards unfolding.

LBB> What does "effectiveness" in advertising mean to you? What is it made up of?

Nicky Bullard> It’s made up of many different things and when it comes to awards we often look at effectiveness in retrospect. But it’s really important when you first sit down with a brief to consider what your effectiveness measures are going to be in order to determine the success of your campaign.

 It could be how many sales you get, how many behaviours you change, it needs to be something measurable. Your results need to be weighed against the measure that you set out at the beginning of the campaign to determine its true effectiveness.

These days I see a lot of people reporting on impressions they’ve gained on social media - which is great, because it means you had a wide reach with your campaign - but, impressions are just impressions. They’re not actually a response from the audience. And I think getting responses is a more powerful measure.

LBB> How has the definition of effectiveness and the way that we measure it changed over the years?

Nicky> Effectiveness is a wonderful measure for great work. In terms of changes, I think that  the people who hold the budgets are measuring it more than ever and are holding us accountable, which is why I think awards like the IPAs and Effies are on everybody's team sheet. There is more of a conscious focus on hitting benchmarks and exceeding expectations.

It's about understanding the difference between reach/popularity and effectiveness. Reach and popularity can help with effectiveness if you've got the right message at the right time, but they're not valuable on their own unless you've got the real commercial measure at the end of it.

LBB> An IPA report has suggested that award-winning creative work is becoming less ‘effective’. How do you respond to that? 

Nicky> We don't just award work on effectiveness. It is a massive element but there is also the idea, the beauty, the strategy. So in creative awards, we're awarding creativity as well as effectiveness. Effectiveness is now much more important in the decision, but it’s not all about effectiveness for every creative award.

At the same time, some of the most popular work doesn’t win golds on the wider award scene because it may not have moved the creative dial enough. But that same piece of work may win an effectiveness award because it hit key business goals.

LBB> In your personal opinion, what have been some of the most effective ads to date?

Nicky> I'm in the wonderful world that is McCann Worldgroup. And Kevin the Carrot has consistently won Effies and IPAs for effectiveness. I think that is because it genuinely touches the nation, understands our everyday world, doesn’t mind being cheeky, and realises that we want a bit of joy and fun. 

I'm hugely proud to be part of the agency that created it. It's very, very British advertising as well. When I think about the international award shows, it's great when you see work that feels like it's truly come from a culture somewhere. You can feel it. Kevin has all the silly humour that British people love and it's just lovely and joyful and effective.

LBB> The pandemic changed the awards landscape dramatically. What are your thoughts on the future of awards?

Nicky> Awards are a happy consequence of great things - like a great relationship with your clients. Breakthrough work is never safe work, so you really have to be on the same page from the get-go. And you don't start a piece of work thinking you're going to make an award winning piece of work. You think, I’m going to create a fantastic piece of work that’s effective within the budget.

And in the last couple of years with everything going on, budgets shrank and the focus had to shift more towards helping clients whilst also keeping your own wheels on your bus turning. Those things had to come first before accolades. 

Creative people have purple periods when they're doing great work, or they have the campaign of their career. If you had the campaign or piece of work of your career in that sort of year such as the pandemic when nobody was entering awards, that's really tough. Really tough. So it was good that the award shows last year allowed people to enter from the year before which helped the industry catch up.

And then there are award shows like The Caples which made entries free during the pandemic, and then if you won, you paid for your award. It was a more risk-free strategy for creatives. But what’s wonderful is that they’ve continued that.

I was lucky enough to be president when this was happening, and we saw so much work that we wouldn't have seen before from smaller agencies who really didn't have the budgets to enter and were probably harder pushed in the pandemic.

LBB> What advice do you have for creatives looking to create award-winning work of the future?

Nicky> First of all, you've got to start in a great place. So we panic as creative people that we have to get this brilliant idea really quickly. There is huge pressure every time we get brief. So it's about making sure you're really in tune with your strategist.

Enjoy bouncing off their insight. If you’re starting to think, wow I didn’t know that, then chances are you’re onto something wonderful.

After that, your job is to dramatise it in the most compelling way possible to achieve the intent of the piece of work. 

Think about who you're partnering with from a craft point of view. Make sure you have time to craft, which can be difficult when you’re really up against it, but make sure that time is built in. Try to look for someone who's doing something different that's relevant to what you're doing but that also pushes the work up a level.

So great insight, right partnerships, brilliant idea. 

And if you find that you're really struggling and you're spending ages on getting a word right for example, you're probably not in the right place. Trust your gut. Go back to your strategist, sit down, have a chat, talk to your business lead, the client, and see if there's anything else that can help trigger those ideas. 

It's about not being on your own as a creative. Something we've learned during the pandemic is how much we need each other.

Work from New York Festivals