Guest Article: Prabhakar Mundkur: The EFF word - The creativity and effectiveness paradox

By Prabhakar Mundkur , Percept/H | In Advertising | December 20, 2011
The old polarity between creativity and effectiveness is no longer generally acceptable. Times have changed and the Holy Communion between creative and effectiveness has reached a new high.

Many of my friends who stepped out of the Effie show this year had a smile on their lips. They said it was fair play. They had either got a nomination or actually won an Effie. They said that this was, then, the fairest award of them all! An expected reaction, I suppose. You tend to be kind to the award's organisers when you win. They also said that they were now bracing up for the unfairness lurking around the corner in a couple of months from now.

But how fair is fair?

The old polarity between creativity and effectiveness is no longer generally acceptable, and a somewhat false opposition. Times have changed and the Holy Communion between creative and effectiveness has reached a new high.

However, we must be absolutely clear that creativity, as perceived by the industry, cannot be a criterion in making the effectiveness awards. Trade awards for creativity, on the other hand, are clearly what the industry considers to be the most creative work produced by the industry.

In any case, what really is the dependence on this nebulous thing called creativity for winning an Effie? If, for example, the creative trade awards were almost 100 per cent dependent on creativity as an art form, what then is its relative weight in the Effies?

The US Effies website says that the scoring system is as follows:

Scoring System
Strategic Challenge + Objectives = 23.3%
Idea = 23.3%
Bringing the idea to life = 23.3%
Results =23.3%
100% of final score

For 2011, in the US, the Results section had the highest scores amongst entries for gold, silver and bronze ( If one counted both the scores for 'Idea' and 'Bringing the idea to life' as the creative components, one would have as much as 46 per cent of the weight devoted to creativity in one way or the other.

Is the US different from Europe for effectiveness awards?

The European Effies say that in Round 2, the evaluation of the case is based 80 per cent on effectiveness and 20 per cent on creativity. Round 1 in the European Effies is done online. The European Effies say: The final score for each finalist is an average of the effectiveness score and the creative score, weighted to emphasise effectiveness over the creative (80:20) (

Why the overwhelming emphasis on effectiveness in Europe? I think that since the IPA in London has laid the benchmark for effectiveness awards, what they mean and what they are, it therefore led and influenced the other countries on the continent.

After all, the IPA had the advantage of a global giant like Simon Broadbent to father the effectiveness awards and create a robust award in the UK. Although a doctorate in Statistics, his poetry was published by Blackwell's even when he was an undergraduate! We have to eternally thank him for giving us words like adstock, which he invented.

In an interview with Tim Ambler of London Business School in 2000, Broadbent said "The IPA wants cases where a campaign can be shown to be profitable. It is campaign evaluation with the profit motive in the foreground. We go straight to the accountant's question: Did it pay back? Of course, we spend a lot of time discussing when it might pay back. In a week? Within the financial year? Perhaps I should have suggested the name Advertising Accountability Awards - it has a nice ring."

A review of the recent IPA entries reveal that a large number of entries miscalculated payback, which is why one finds guidance notes on the IPA website on defining payback as:

1. Calculate the value of incremental sales
2. Calculate incremental sales revenue
3. Calculate marginal contribution to profit
4. Calculate net profit

Enough said about the IPA - now, coming back to the Effies. How are they really different, apart from being American rather than British? Well, for one, like most American products, the Effies are global and have spread to the far corners of the globe, unlike the IPA.

Do only well known brands win Effies?

I daresay no, although juries in some countries may be more star-struck than others. But, if one goes by the Grand Effie in the US in 2010, won by Detroit Public Schools, it shows that the winner need not be either glamorous or well known.

Old Spice, which recently won the Effie in the US in 2011, proves that the US juries will award a well-known brand such as Old Spice as readily as they will accept a comparatively more obscure brand like Detroit Public Schools.

Whither effectiveness?

Less information is available on the Indian Effies, which does not have its own website and works generally under the aegis of the Advertising Club of Bombay, which has the unique distinction of hosting both the creative awards and the effectiveness awards. This brings an unfair bias into the argument between creativity and effectiveness. It's a bit like saying the London International Show will host the IPA awards as well!

I still continue to be a fan of the IPA and go back to the Charles Channon preface in Adworks 3, published in 1984, where he describes the purpose and format of the awards: "To demonstrate that advertising can be proven to work against measurable criteria and show that it is both a serious commercial investment and a contributor to profit."

Coming back to the question on creativity and effectiveness - is there a high correlation between the awards won at the Indian Effie and the other creative awards in the country, as someone recently asked me? I leave it to you to judge. I guess we only have to wait a few months to know. Or, just check the Effie and the creative awards of previous years.

If it were, it would suggest that what the industry considers creative might be winning the effectiveness awards as well. And, that would be a big blow for effectiveness!

However, for better or for worse, all effectiveness awards are likely to destroy the folklore on the ineffectiveness of advertising and must, therefore, be applauded for the good they are doing for the industry.

And, all you old fogies who are still arguing about the long-term effects of advertising - Hail! Brands are now proving effectiveness based on just one cricketing season.

So, the long term effects of advertising may just be a forgotten phase for the advertising museums. Remember - everything is short term today! As John Maynard Keynes once said, "In the long term, we are all dead."

(The author is CEO, Percept/H)