Lucy Aitken on creative effectiveness and successful campaigns

Creative work can be effective, but not always. With the innovation of digital data and new ways to receive and analyze data, tracking and measuring campaigns and creative work has become easier, however it is still important to look at previously successful campaigns.

So, how do we learn what is and isn’t effective?

One of the options is the WARC Effective 100, an annual ranking of effective advertising and marketing campaigns, and the companies behind them.

We spoke with Lucy Aitken, Managing Editor – Case Studies at WARC, before their 2019 release and her talk at this year’s Dubai Lynx, to talk about the rankings, creative effectiveness and how brands and agencies can learn from it.


WARC is about to release their annual WARC Effective 100, could you tell us a bit about it and how WARC calculates effectiveness?

“WARC has been producing these rankings for several years now. They are a benchmark for commercial creativity and success and they provide an independent and impartial view of excellence in effective marketing, allowing marketers to compare their performance with their peers.

The methodology takes into account the winners of the most important global and regional advertising effectiveness competitions across the globe, as determined by the industry following a worldwide survey and consultation. Campaigns (and the brands and agencies behind them) are awarded points based on the level of awards they win in those competitions and each competition is weighted based on how rigorous and prestigious it is.”

The award shows for the WARC Effectiveness 100 rankings, as elected by the industry are

Global: AME Awards, Cannes Lions, Effies (multiple shows), IPA Effectiveness Awards, Jay Chiat Awards, WARC Awards, ARF David Ogilvy Awards

Regional: Loeries, Tangrams, WARC Prize for Asian Strategy, WARC Prize for MENA Strategy


What about you, what is your personal definition of creative effectiveness?

“Quite simply, it’s work that works.”


How do you believe brands should work towards making their creative ideas more effective?

“If brands set out with a very clear objective, they are more likely to be able to define their strategy in a more focused way. If there is any confusion at the start of the process about what they want to achieve, it will automatically derail any chance of effectiveness.”


Do you have any tips on how they can do that?

“Spend time with the problem that’s being addressed rather than rushing the solution.

Assess whether an ad campaign is actually the best business solution to the problem. It might be a product innovation instead. It might be a change in the audience being targeted.

There’s so much data available now that can be used upfront to help brands plan more precisely.”


Could you give us an example on how creative can truly be effective?

“One of my favorite examples from the MENA region is the Ensa Joura campaign through TBWA/RAAD which won the Grand Prix in our first WARC Prize for MENA Strategy in 2017.

This campaign, for Lebanese news channel Murr TV (MTV), took a highly creative and purposeful approach and was hugely effective, not just in solving the issue of lethal potholes on the country’s roads through investing in the latest hi-tech machinery, but also in building brand equity and trust for the TV station.

The background of the campaign was that traffic conditions in Lebanon contribute to 15 road deaths per 100,000 people every year, but lack of government action after a provocative TV ad prompted Murr Television to develop its own repair truck to fix the potholes and use TV, radio and social media to encourage members of the public to report potholes wherever they saw them.”


What can a brand or agency take away from that story and use in future campaigns?

  • Resist the temptation to invest in an ad campaign because that’s what you’ve traditionally done
  • Engage people. When you participate with the people you’re targeting – they are much more invested in the activity. In Murr TV’s case, they launched an app which invited people to show where the potholes were that they would then fix for them.


What do you see as important elements in understanding how to make creative effective and analyze/track success?

  • Consistent measurement from the very beginning
  • Control measurement is also a good way to prove effectiveness – for instance, we ran the creative in region x but not in region y and we noticed this difference
  • Moving away from the idea as impressions as a metric for success
  • Never underestimating the importance of discounting – for instance, we made x changes to our distribution/pricing, etc which we estimate to have contributed x to our sales. With that in mind, we think the campaign was responsible for x contribution to sales.


What do you see as heavy trends in marketing this year?

  • Personalization will continue to be a big trend in marketing this year, but not in a clunky way.As the technology becomes more sophisticated, there’s an opportunity for brands to personalize but not without compromising on privacy concerns. Opt-in for consumers will become more important, as will a value exchange for any personal data that they are willing to offer brands.
  • Customer experience continues to dominate marketing discussions and this encompasses so much more than having a beautiful ad campaign. It is about offering a consistently positive experience to people when they interact with your brand through any touchpoint.
  • Advertisers and their agencies will be working under tighter budgets, so will be tested for their ability to work under constraints that they may not have experienced before.



Hear more from Lucy Aitken, Managing Editor – Case Studies, WARC at Dubai Lynx in March where she will be presenting ‘Learn From the World’s Most Effective Campaigns.

WARC are also the organizers of the WARC Prize for MENA Strategy, a search for the best strategic marketing thinking that has driven results in the Middle East and North Africa. It’s free to enter and the top winners share a $10,000 prize fund. The deadline to enter is 16 April 2019.

WARC Effective 100 is set to be released on March 4, while their other annual ranking, the WARC Creative 100 was just released.

This year’s winner of the WARC Creative 100 is the Palau Pledge by Host/Havas Sydney, whose campaign is trailblazing a new model of conscious tourism by asking visitors to “sign a passport pledge to act in an ecologically responsible way on the island, for the sake of Palau’s children and future generations of Palauans.”

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