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Cannes ‘light bulb moment’ is embarrassment to the industry

Judges at the inaugural Cannes Lions festival proudly declared that in 2016, they shall be specifically looking to reward entries which actually worked. No more handing out of rosettes to the fattest or the best looking pigs – this year they wanted to taste the bacon, or at least see how much it sold for.

Allegedly (and shockingly) “many of the of the judges commented that the industry needs to develop a better understanding of what effectiveness in advertising means, which ultimately boils down to delivering increased sales or profits for clients.”

Develop a better understanding of what effectiveness in advertising means? Well staple me to a 48 sheet and sail me down the Thames… surely this has to be some sort of hilarious joke? And it begs the question; what the hell have people in our industry been doing with client money before the wise sages at Cannes issued the astonishing revelation that campaigns have to work?

On hearing this news, horrified creatives across the industry must have staggered to their favourite artisan coffee-shacks to seek solace in the bottom of their decaf soy flat white. The sky is falling. Is it, though? Have times been so good for advertisers, until now, that they could afford to throw endless millions of pounds into investing solely in soft metrics? And does this renaissance signal a change in tide towards a focus on results over creating conceptually interesting campaigns?

Fortuitously, the answer to the former question, is no, and the learning is that if you throw enough money at it, advertising on the whole, works. So, whilst the metrics for success previously might have been too far removed from the hard metrics, campaigns nevertheless have delivered results. It is though, eminently possible that the client could have enjoyed the same or better for less investment had the planners kept a closer eye on the hard numbers.

So, what of this renaissance? It is no accident that the IPA has recently released the ‘Eff test’ and focused on return on marketing investment (ROMI) in its latest training programme. This is a clear signal that advertisers are demanding media planners who understand and can plan to achieve results on the business metrics which matter to clients. After all, no client ever got a pat on the back for reporting an increase in ‘purchase intent’ to the shareholders.

The worry for advertisers, is how far behind most of the industry is, and how long it will take to turn the tanker around. There is of course an agency out there that saw this coming, painstakingly created bespoke analysis systems, and made sure that from the ground up, all media practitioners were focused on the numbers that matter to the clients. The future is finally catching up with us.

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