BITE Focus

“Playing it safe is the riskiest thing you can do”: Effie’s Ideas That Work 2020 Summit

Nicola Kemp, Editorial Director at Creativebrief hosted a panel that explored what makes for effective work and how marketers should be operating in an ever-changing communications landscape.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE Creativebrief


The idea of marketing effectiveness is one that is debated, discussed and dissected repeatedly across the communications industry, particularly in recent years as platforms have stepped up privacy settings and data is more difficult to come by.

Thankfully the Effie’s exist, to lead, inspire and champion the practice and practitioners of marketing effectiveness globally. Arguably at a time when effectiveness has never mattered more, a summit like Effie’s Ideas That Work is vital to explore the topics that matter most to the industry, particularly in a time of global crisis.

As Mike Florence said, “we’ve experienced the biggest full stop in consumer behaviour in history. We need to look forward not backward.” Florence, who is Chief Strategy Officer at PHD, was speaking on a panel at the 2020 summit hosted by Creativebrief’s Editorial Director Nicola Kemp. He was joined on the panel by Sammy King, Creative Agency Partner at Facebook, Tom Roach, brand and communications strategist and consultant, Manjiry Tamhane, Global CEO of Gain Theory and Eleanor Thornton-Firkin, Head of Creative Excellence at Ipsos UK.

The group were discussing what makes for award-winning work when it comes to effectiveness particularly when viewed in light of the current climate. For Sammy King, he wants to see the industry continuing to take creative risks. “Playing it safe is the riskiest thing you can do,” he adds.

Last year’s plan isn’t good enough. You need to plan for today and tomorrow.

Mike Florence

The challenge of uncertainty

For Eleanor Thornton-Firkin, what’s vital is that brands remember that just because there are constraints, “don’t forget what the brand has stood for in the past.” There needs to be integrity in the way a brand behaves, a continuity from past work and ideas to present.

Roach reveals that he used to be obsessed with the big campaigns. But now what he looks for in effective work is more scalability to accommodate for the continuously shifting media and creative landscape. It’s this uncertainty that Manjiry Tamhane says is the industry’s biggest challenge. “Measurement can help to bring confidence,” she explains. “You’ve got to launch the campaign, learn quickly and flex accordingly,” she believes.

Roach feels that the existing framework for measuring effectiveness is fit for purpose. But what needs to happen is a “constant evolution” of the framework rather than a completely new one. King adds that there needs to be a consideration of craft when it comes to the discussion around effectiveness; “the conversation is often too binary,” he adds.

“The basic rules of marketing haven’t changed,” Tamhane explains. It’s still essential to have a brilliant creative idea that is relevant to the here and now. “Stick to basic principles,” she advises. “Test and learn quickly and put yourself in a better place to thrive in this environment.”

Lean into new moments

Florence believes that all advertisers should adopt a challenger mindset right now. They also need to be understanding, “the new rhythms of people’s lives,” he explains, citing data that shows that since lockdown began, there has been a 45 minute increase in media consumption and we’ve seen ten years of growth in online shopping in four weeks. “Lean into new moments, new contexts and get there first,” he advises.

This shifting context, believes Thornton-Firkin, gives space for brands to play in, to ask themselves, “what is the role of my brand in those situations?” This extends to how brands will operate with Christmas campaigns this year, as Roach examines. He believes the role of these campaigns will stay the same: “to entertain, drive fame and sell both instantly and forever.” But when watching and critiquing this year’s campaigns, people should be, he says, cognisant of the difficult conditions they were created in. We should, he says, “see them as the epitome of what we’ve done with a difficult time.”

This new landscape, believes King, has offered marketers an opportunity to test different messaging strategies. “Essentially you are using platforms and advertising as a focus group,” he explains. “You can be smarter with how you build [a brand].”

Tamhane believes that, “there’s never been a better time to creatively appeal to consumers.” But when you do, cautions Roach, get yourself back to basics, “and sort the fundamentals out.” This means, for King, “draw on partners available to you…teamwork makes the dreamwork.”

Florence adds as a final thought that “last year’s plan isn’t good enough. You need to plan for today and tomorrow.” As the panel demonstrated, marketers need to be emboldened to innovate, to work towards creating work that suits the new normal we’re all existing in and that, as a result, proves itself to be creatively effective.