[COMMENT] For a couple of weeks after the 2019 Cannes Lions Festival had ended, I indulged in a binge exploration of the award winners on The Work from Cannes Lions (2019) site.
Generously, the festival organisers provided a four-week open window showcasing some of the best global creativity, before imposing the inevitable subscription requirement on accessing the work. Indulgent, it might have been, but it was also inspiring and thought provoking.
It is easy to think of awards programmes as being all about the ‘gongs’ and the attendant professional and organisational prestige that is bestowed by them, and the epic celebrations that accompanies winning them. In an earlier more discrete era, David Ogilvy, in his Confessions of an Advertising Man advised: “… resist the temptation to write the kind of copy which wins awards. I am always gratified when I win an award, but most of the campaigns which produce results never win awards because they don’t draw attention to themselves.” Certainly, most creative awards programmes now seek to recognise “effective”, results-delivering creativity.
Award winning agencies and advertising professionals know that they are excellent for the agency bottom line: they build the agency profile, clout and credibility, and they attract staff and clients. I saw the effect close-up when winning an award changed the fortunes of the media agency for which I worked. Suddenly we were on all the pitch lists, and years of growth followed.
But my Cannes Lions binge reminded me that the case studies generated in the pursuit of awards are not merely by-products of the process: They provide useful insights into what works and give us guidelines for how to build effective campaigns in our ever-evolving world. The Effie Worldwide, arriving locally next year, positions itself as standing “for effectiveness in marketing, spotlighting marketing ideas that work and encouraging thoughtful dialogue about the drivers of marketing effectiveness”.
While it is possible to roam these global repositories of marketing and advertising success stories, it is not easy to find local case studies.
Besides an impressive case studies database, Ideas That Work, it provides a variety of educational and learning tools. Once again, there is a subscription for full access to the case videos and detailed written case studies, where publication permission was granted, but all visitors have access to 90-word summaries, which are great thought-starters.
While it is possible to roam these global repositories of marketing and advertising success stories, it is not easy to find local case studies. The Loeries site openly showcases the previous year’s work rather than case studies, while the Apex Awards publishes the award-winning case studies after a considerable interval: 2018 case studies will be available in February 2020 and the 2019 awards in the same month of 2021. Of special interest to media professionals, the Advertising and Media Association of South Africa (AMASA) Awards have never published the winning case studies.
Another rich source of case studies should be media owners. In the UK, industry bodies such as Thinkbox and Radiocentre help advertisers get the best out of their media and case studies play an important role in demonstrating what works effectively and showcasing innovation.
Of course, we do not have the luxury of such industry bodies here; some individual media owners and/or sales houses do produce case studies – Primedia Broadcasting and Mediamark spring to my mind. But, in both cases, judging by their websites, they too allow a more than decent interval to pass before putting them into the public domain.
The biggest problem is the reluctance of clients to allow the information to be published. This attitude seems to me to be tinged with an outdated parochial paranoia.
There is no doubt that writing up case studies is a time-consuming undertaking and requires skills that may be in short supply; moreover, with video now being de rigueur format, the production of case studies can be an expensive exercise. A few conversations with awards committee members and media sales people, however, suggest that these are not the major obstacles.
The biggest problem is the reluctance of clients to allow the information to be published. This attitude seems to me to be tinged with an outdated parochial paranoia. If we look at the case studies published globally, it is clear that participating marketers are not giving away yards of competitive advantage, but they are sharing insights that advance the discipline of marketing.
Rosie and Faris Yakob, co-founders of the brilliantly named Genius Steals, a self-described “nomadic strategy and innovation consultancy” make the points that “nothing can come from nothing” and that “ideas are new combinations” of what has come before. I think it is time that local marketers change their attitudes and look at how they can help to move the discipline forward, learning form each other.
Having spent some decades working in the media agencies, Britta Reid now relishes the opportunity to take an independent perspective on the South African media world, especially during this time of radical research transformation.
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