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Creative Courage Speaker Spotlight: IPA’s Kay Heenan on tackling the crisis in creative effectiveness

Kay Heenan, IPA

Kay Heenan is the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising’s Marketing and Awards Senior Executive, focusing on the delivery of the Effectiveness Awards.

At the end of November, Prolific North is collaborating with McCann Leeds and Channel 4 to launch the ‘Creative Courage’ event in Leeds, bringing together visionaries and ambitious creatives to discuss how creative bravery can make its mark. Kay will be one of the special guest speakers at the event, discussing ‘Creativity and Effectiveness’.


Having worked with the IPA since 2017, Kay has been focusing on Effectiveness – one of the IPA’s three core values. Heenan says Effectiveness is “not just about measurement but all about evidence-based decisionmaking in day-to-day management of a business.”

Effectiveness is so important, she says, because it allows agencies to prove the value of their work to clients. “It helps a lot because of future investment, [so] it’s great for the industry. In terms of measurement, the most important thing is to have a measurement strategy in place. It’s about measuring rather than counting.” 

A recent IPA whitepaper with Gain Theory backs this up. It showed that no metric of success exists alone, and each one ladders into the other. Successful measurement of marketing effectiveness is less about the methodology as it is about understanding which metrics build from one another.

Kay’s talk will tackle the link between ‘Creativity and Effectiveness’. It comes off the back of something of a crisis of creativity. “It’s previously been proven through our research that creativity is the most important driver of Effectiveness.”

However, other insights have shown that “in recent years, creatively awarded campaigns are now no more effective than non-creatively awarded campaigns. They’re now less effective than they have been in the 24 years of data we have. [We’ve] had a kind of crisis of Creative Effectiveness,” she says.

The November 28th event will celebrate creativity fuelling optimism and prosperity

What Creative Courage means 

Asked how important creativity truly is, Heenan says: “Creativity should extend far beyond the creative department.”

Beyond simply creativity, this month’s event will focus on Creative Courage – which, to Kay, is “thinking about the long-term alongside shorter-term activations. 

“Sometimes, people throw their creativity into short-term events, and things that help the brand very briefly, rather than building a brand up in the long-term – which ultimately leads to Effectiveness.”

The crisis in creative effectiveness “isn’t something that can’t be solved,” on the other hand. “A short-term, long-term balance is a good place to start. People are thinking short-term more than ever – so if agencies and brands have that Creative Courage to redress the balance… that will help link back Effectiveness and creativity – and make sure creativity is a multiplier to Effectiveness.”

The IPA’s value structure

On top of Effectiveness, the IPA’s other central values are Commercial and Talent. “They all work together and rely on each other, in different ways. Effectiveness will help industry flourish and drive more clients and investment, which is the core of Commercial. 

“And Talent underpins both of these, making sure we’ve got a diversity of people working on each project – with different skillsets. That is going to help create better work,” and push Effectiveness upwards.

“Last year,” says Kay, “it was great to see case studies that looked different from our 40 years’ worth of case studies. We had a couple of case studies that proved the effectiveness of sponsorship. We also had a couple of cases that showed that diversity and inclusion could be really effective, such as the British Army in their recruitment drive, and also L’Oreal True Match.”

The awards are showing people that effective campaigns don’t just follow one formula – it’s about the imagination, values and drive behind them.

Looking forward to the future

What other agencies and platforms can learn from decades of award winners “is the importance of implementing an Effectiveness culture within the workplace, and how they interact with clients,” she says. “The IPA recently launched a new Effectiveness Accreditation, which will recognise agencies that demonstrate strong Effectiveness cultures, and that are placing Effectiveness at the heart of their everyday practices.”

What this means is that so-called “everyday Effectiveness” will be recognised by the IPA – the day-in-day-out mindset that ultimately leads to impactful campaigns and awards.

Creative Courage takes place at the Leeds Everyman Cinema on November 28th between 5pm and 8pm. Other speakers include Channel 4’s Sinead Rocks: Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games’ Martin Green CBE; and McCann’s Vince McSweeney.

Anticipating the exclusive event, Kay personally says: “From a professional perspective I’m really looking forward to hearing from Danny Blackburn on the importance of customer experiences, as I think it ties in closely with some of the learnings from our Effectiveness Week 2019. 

“From a personal perspective, I can’t wait to hear from Martin Green about how culture can transform a city.”

The IPA encourages marketing effectiveness best practice in advertising through the Effectiveness Awards, Eff Test and EffWeek festival. Entries for the 2020 IPA Effectiveness Awards are now open.

Join McCann Leeds, Channel 4 and Prolific North on November 28th in Leeds city centre to discuss Creative Courage with influential figures from a range of creative industries.

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