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Why Strategy and Effectiveness Are the Same Thing


As the industry heads into its annual effectiveness awards season, McCann Manchester's Jamie Peate explains why we need to reclaim it to guide into a more successful future

Why Strategy and Effectiveness Are the Same Thing

‘The future is purchased by the present’ – Dr Samuel Johnson

As we plunge into Autumn and hurtle ever closer to Christmas 2023, we enter the annual effectiveness awards season, with the IPA, Effie UK and Effie Europe award galas all taking place before Christmas.

As someone who has been intimately involved with both effectiveness and effectiveness awards for the last 12 years, I have been reflecting a little on all of this.

There is a strange tension that exists at the heart of effectiveness and effectiveness awards – on the one hand they are the true value of the work we do, bringing together the Yin and Yang of strategy and creativity.

This cuts to the very heart of what advertising/marketing comms is for.

But there is also a feeling that effectiveness is a bit of dull subject, especially when compared to its more glamorous partner ‘creativity’

It conjures up images of tedious graphs, KPIs and spreadsheets of numbers.

Its award papers are long, hard to write, require lots of data that clients seem reluctant to share, and are then highly scrutinised.

Its award shows are a bit ‘grown-up’ too – nothing like being in the sun and rose of Cannes, with everyone celebrating your originality and creative genius.

This all feels very retrospective – pouring over what has gone before to write everything up for a conference presentation or the library.

Yet, I think the power of effectiveness is so much more that all of this and is summed up by a famous quote from Dr Samuel Johnson:

‘The future is purchased by the present’

What he was referring to was very simple – what we do now plays a part in shaping what the future will be, or put another way, if you want to achieve something in the future you have to backward chain from there to the present and think about what you need to do to achieve it.

When we talk about ‘strategy’ in the context of advertising/marketing comms this is what we mean – What we need to do deliver the result we want?

This is what differentiates strategy from planning.

Strategy is what you need to do, and planning is how you do it.

This means that planning is very contingent and depended on context, summed up by the famous quote from Mike Tyson:

‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth’

Plans only last as until the context changes and that can be for host of different factors, not least of which is the competition. 

Once the context changes then so do the plans.

Now, what if we substitute the word result for effect in our description of strategy? 

We get - What we need to do help deliver the effect we want?

That means delivering the most effective work we can for clients, work that has an amplifying and multiplying effect above the norms of the category, and awards cases show us how to do it.

In other words:

  • Strategy and Effectiveness as basically the same thing.
  • Effectiveness is about delivering the effect you want in the future.
  • Effectiveness awards help us understand how to best create these effects – they show us how to have the best chance of achieving the future we want

So, we need to reclaim Effectiveness and Effectiveness Awards – they are our guides into more successful futures, and who would not want to travel into a future like that!


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McCann Manchester, Thu, 13 Oct 2022 09:03:00 GMT