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“We’re missing an important part of the conversation”: Beyond the M25 and advertising ROI

Following last week’s IPA EffWorks event in Manchester, Tim Whirledge, chief strategy officer at McCann Manchester, explains why he believes value creation, not just advertising ROI, should be the commercial impact a strong brand brings to its clients and why he thinks the North is best placed to deliver that.

John Wanamaker, a forefather of marketing said over 100 years ago:Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”.  

Today, we’ve never been more sure on how advertising works. A growing canon of effectiveness data from both industry practitioners like Les Binet and Peter Field, neuroscience experts from System 1, and marketing academics from the Ehrenburg Bass Institute have given our community tangible evidence on what is working and how.  

We know it’s long and short-term objectives. We know it’s appealing to system 1 and System 2 brain wiring. We know the executional notes that ensure attention and action. We know we need to be generalist integrators and channel experts. We know we need to be ‘and’ people or, as Tom Roach coined it, ‘bothists’So, 100 years on, perhaps both halves of Wanamaker’s advertising spend was effective, not wasted after all.  

The good news for our region is that being bothists should come naturally to us lucky enough to live here, and I firmly believe we need to have more swagger in our ability to assume this mindset. Maybe it’s a function of swimming in a smaller pond where commercial reputations matter. Maybe it’s simply because we’re more in step with the rest of the nation in how we live our lives.  

But here is my gauntlet being laid down. I don’t want this community to stop at being satisfied with being the home of advertising effectiveness.  

Because we’re missing an important part of the conversation which our little corner of the universe is brilliantly placed, literally and metaphorically, to drive the whole industry forward on: demonstrating how a strong brand creates new, incremental and exponential commercial value, not just advertising ROI.  

Let me explain why I think we’re so well placed. Our region is brimming with businesses run by entrepreneurial leaders. At the helm of businesses with strong cash flow, great margins, with amazing new propositions. Often founder-owned and run (but not always), they have an incredible intuition for great marketing rather than having been classically trained. They probably haven’t read How Brands Grow because they’ve never had to. They expect their agency to have read that stuff but not regurgitate it. So that they can turn to them for an integrated, commercially-driven view on the plays needed for short term sales and long-term sustainable growth.  

These types of clients expect an agency relationship to be focused on strategic creativity that generates value not just assets across their supply chain, among city analysts, in the staff room, and of course among customers. And it turns out, these are the clients our community is most comfortable serving. 

So, this is my clarion call to the region: to not settle for just being ‘bothists’ but to go further and reimagine ‘regional creativity’ as upstream creativity, ready to create new value for our entrepreneurial leaders.

Tim Whirledge, joined a panel of industry leaders last week at the IPA’s satellite event EffWorks in Manchester. 

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