The Case for the Directory Big Won Rankings

Issue 21 | January 2012

Oh, the humanity!

It’s that emblematic time of year when, during January’s quiet mornings, the advertising industry gathers to masturbate in front of the mirror.

It’s the publication of the global rankings of 2011’s most awarded campaigns, agencies and people.

“Where are we?” I hear you ask. “Did we beat DDB?” “How can we be one of the most awarded agencies and I’m not on the top ECD’s list?”

Such important questions - dueling for significance only with the one that I suspect the more abstemious in our midst are asking: “WTF?!” And I do think that you have to admit it’s a fair query. Because let’s be honest - The Big Won Report does look suspiciously like a kind of KFC for egomaniacs gorging on their vanities.

So then, WTF indeed?

What on earth is the value of counting up the most creatively-awarded campaigns and agencies in the world?

There’s actually a very simple, practical reason to learn from the world’s most creative campaigns, and that’s that the highly creative attributes that those campaigns exhibit are the very things that make advertising more effective.

In November just passed, Millward Brown published a study of their historical database of campaigns they’ve measured. They showed that the most effective (and IPA/Effie winning) campaigns over-index on what they term ‘different to other ads’, ‘involvement’ and ‘enjoyment’. Then they showed that the most creatively-awarded work also excels on exactly those three measures. They concluded that the kind of highly original and engaging campaigns that win creative awards are also the most effective.

Conversely, they showed that the most effective work actually under-indexes on things like ‘understanding’ and ‘relevance’ – those more rational attributes that tend not to inspire creative award judges.

This was a bold admission from Millward Brown, and a real sign of the times. In the last few years we’ve seen a mountain of independent research conclude that a more creative approach leads to better commercial results. That if we choose very original and engaging ideas and spend the money to craft them well, we’ll be vastly more likely to see a good return on our marketing spend than if we choose a conventional, informative approach.

And in a clear case of life-imitating-research-findings, the world’s most effective campaigns of 2011 all feature in the Big Won’s creative rankings.

Out of 4048 creatively-awarded campaigns in 2011, the USA Grand Effie (Old Spice The Man Your Man Could Smell Like) was the 10th most creatively-awarded. The Asian Marketing Effectiveness Awards Platinum (Yellow Pages’ Hidden Pizza Restaurant) was the 40th most awarded. And the IPA Effectiveness Awards Grand Prix (Colombian Ministry of Defence’s Operation Christmas campaign) was the 85th most awarded.

In my part of the world, the New Zealand Effies’ Most Effective Campaign of the Year (NZ Ministry of Health’s The Journal) was the 19th most creatively-awarded campaign in the world, and the Australian Grand Effie (Tontine’s Dated Pillows) was the 64th most awarded.

This presents a case for uncovering the world’s most creatively-awarded campaigns so that we’re able to discuss them, learn from them, and understand the nature of the sorts of communications that will truly stand the best chance of cutting through, engaging and persuading today’s consumers.

I truly believe that the healthiest way to use this report is to show the most awarded campaigns to clients, accompanied with a nice glass of New Zealand pinot noir, and have a proper back and forth with them about the nature of that work, what we can learn from it, and how we can apply those learnings to the work on their brands in 2012.

However, depending on your 2011, you mightn’t necessarily want to share the agency rankings with them.

For, just as the campaign rankings are something of a proxy for effectiveness, the agency rankings serve as an indication of agency effectiveness.

Again, the numbers show that the more capable an agency is of winning creative awards, the more likely it is to produce strong commercial results for its clients.

My own research in 2011 showed that the world’s most creatively-awarded agencies won, on average, two and a half times as many effectiveness accolades as less creative agencies. Those findings were corroborated when Effie Worldwide and Warc released their Effie Index, showing BBDO (for many years the Big Won’s most creatively-awarded agency network) to also be the world’s most effective network.

Again these findings are played out in this year’s rankings. The Big Won’s top agency, BBDO New York, is the #2 most effective US agency in the Effie Index (behind Wieden & Kennedy, another top performer in The Big Won). The runner-up, Almap BBDO, won the 2011 Grand Effie in Brazil for their work on Pepsi. #4, Hamburg’s Jung Von Matt, are also #4 in Germany for Effectiveness. Colenso BBDO at #5 is New Zealand’s Effie Index #1. And AMV BBDO is #6 in the Big Won and #3 in the UK in the Effie Index.

Again this presents a case against seeing creative awards purely as the ornaments of self-aggrandizement and instead as proven bellwethers of an agency’s likelihood of delivering clients a better return on their investment.

So because of all that, it’s my great pleasure to introduce the 2011 Directory Big Won Rankings; a revealing of the best of our industry, and a guide to the work most worthy of learning from. May we use it to inspire ourselves and our clients, and for that inspiration to carry us all toward better, more creative, more effective work in 2012.

- James Hurman, January 2012

Have a look at the Big Won Rankings article here.

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