Effectiveness has always been a driving concept at McCann Leeds, but now the agency is on a mission to embed it culturally and formally.
We sat down with Creative Director Gavin Shore and Strategy Director Coral Cranmer to understand why.
Marketing agencies rarely talk about ROI or Payback
Coral: Effectiveness means ensuring that your work not only looks great, but has a purpose and an outcome that is measurable. Key metrics such as ROI or Payback are still rarely included in the client brief as measures of success. Not because they avoid it, but because we often lack the complete data picture/tools to do the accurate calculations.
Gavin: In recent years we saw a shift to creative work being driven by performance metrics which are often too short term, and on the complete other end of the spectrum, big, bold creative ideas that lacked a clear commercial ambition, which drove an an emphasis on creating lots of ‘stuff’, rather than focusing on driving value and business growth.
You can’t be effective alone
Coral: It has to be a partnership with the client, so we talk in terms of an effectiveness contract. This isn’t some serious document, but a kind of common agreement between us that will give them a really clear map of how we can measure the effectiveness of the work, and the benchmarks along the way. The client’s responsibility is to make sure that they’re transparent, that they allow us access to the data, and that they report in a timely way. Ours is on focusing on work that will ‘work’ and that we will commit to measuring throughout.
Gavin: By putting this framework in place and really defining the relationship, we give ourselves and our clients much more confidence in the steps that we both need to take to get them to where they need to be. What measurements are really important on that journey and what measurements are less important or not important at all?
Effectiveness is not about the short term
Coral: Effectiveness isn’t just about reporting how a campaign has performed in the moment of the campaign or just after, it’s about long term effectiveness. And that can be quite challenging if you’re used to kind of slapping yourselves on the back when you’ve hit a sales target immediately after a campaign goes live. So there can be nervousness that we will be able to uncover things that you can gloss over in the short term. But on the whole it’s a really positive conversation, because the client can see how they go ‘if I can prove my ROI, I prove mine and my team’s value, and I get the confidence in us to deliver bigger, better next time’. And that’s the hardest conversation for a marketing manager to have with the board.
Gavin: It’s the antithesis to that behaviour that has creeped in over the last decade or so, particularly with regional agencies: short-term performance metrics. Effectiveness is not just about clicks or shifting product, it’s about setting up a journey, establishing goals, and putting the right things in place to get there.
Embedding effectiveness in the agency has been fascinating
Gavin: It’s been great to see the team absolutely grab hold of it. And it’s quite interesting how it opens your eyes, because it does make you realise that effectiveness is not new, but has waned over time. Many of the creatives have never been exposed to the effectiveness conversation, the real, detailed why behind the briefs, so it’s been fascinating to see the enthusiasm from them to learn about instilling behaviours that lead to a much deeper outcome. I’ve always been a believer that your work has to motivate something, it has to do something, it can’t just be work. We still have a huge amount of room to be creative, but this defines what that space is.
Coral: In terms of our approach, the training is an official qualification, the Advanced Certified Professional for the senior strategist and The Fundamentals for the rest of the agency, all done through the IPA. Our strategy director Miles has taken on the role of effectiveness champion and is ensuring every member of the team gets time allocated in their diaries to do a couple of modules every week and the support they need along the way. We anticipate that everyone will be qualified by Christmas.
Being effective is about asking questions about the metrics
Coral: When we talk about brand metrics, the normal metrics you’ll get in a brief from a client team will be related to things like awareness. The difference now is that we seek to understand why particular objectives exist – commercial business and marketing objectives – and really dig down into them. Ultimately we want to get to a ROMI (return on marketing investment) calculation and Payback.
Effectiveness has the power to make you much more single-minded
Coral: It makes you focus on one thing, rather than trying to do too many things in one campaign. What has been pleasantly surprising is it puts everybody in the room in a common place of agreement on the best way to achieve something.
Effectiveness is not the death of creativity – you can still be very creative
Gavin: I’m a big believer in incredible creativity but ultimately it’s a balance between creativity and performance. I certainly wouldn’t want us to just become all about performance. An effectiveness framework is about liberating your creative playground and giving you and the client confidence in what you’re doing.