Book club is a monthly series where we highlight the most informative and inspiring books on marketing, advertising, and business strategy.
Marketing in the Era of Accountability, by Les Binet and Peter Field, Warc (2007)
Each month we’ll look at a different book from the Plannerzone reading list. The books are from various disciplines—marketing, economics, medicine, psychology, design—but are all connected by a common thread of strategic thinking.
Every book in the series, in one way or another, addresses the fundamental questions of strategy: what works, what doesn’t work, and why.
This month we’re looking at Marketing in the Era of Accountability, or MEA for short. The book analyzes 880 case studies from advertising campaigns that have been awarded an Effie (IPA Effectiveness Awards). These are, arguably, the most effective marketing campaigns in the world.
By studying these campaigns the authors were able to identify factors that separate good marketing from great marketing. As the introduction explains, “it aims chiefly to narrow the gap between common practice and best practice in marketing . . . this publication will separate out the misleadingly glittering from the truly golden.”
The book analyzes data on six areas of marketing strategy that can help or hurt effectiveness: briefing, budget setting, communications strategy, media strategy, measurement, and payback. In each of these areas MEA challenges common marketing preconceptions, and backs up its claims with meaningful data. Here are examples of key ideas for each area:
Briefing. “Direct response metrics help make a campaign more accountable. However, direct campaigns, while cost-effective in profit terms, tend to produce fewer business effects.”
Budget Setting. “Category share of voice, rather than budget size, most accurately predicts success, and therefore some view of likely competitive expenditure must be factored into budgeting.”
Communications Strategy. “Emotional approaches work particularly well for premium brands as a way of justifying the price premium. Value brands require a more mixed approach.”
Media Strategy. “If longer-term brand effects are an objective, as opposed to short term response, judge all media opportunities on their power to enhance the ability of communications to engage emotionally with consumers.”
Measurement. “Look for correlations between campaign effects and exposure to the campaign, not recall of it. In particular, showing that attitudes to a brand correlate positively with recall of its advertising does not prove that the advertising works (the ‘Rosser Reeves fallacy’).”
Payback and Remuneration. “Use NPV to measure the effectiveness of your campaign in financial terms.”
Each section ends with a list of “golden rules” to guide decision making in each area. These lists are helpful reminders, or perhaps even checklists, for marketing strategists as they build campaigns.
Perhaps the most impressive things about this book is the data itself. This is a welcome relief from most marketing texts. For all the talk of being data-driven, marketing books and articles tend to rely on a few hand-picked case studies, and broad generalizations built on faulty evidence. In contrast, Binet and Fields use skeptical eyes and a broad collection of data to make their case.
Why is it essential reading?
This book is on the Plannerzone reading list because it makes a strong case for creative, emotional marketing communications, and demonstrates how these campaigns lead to more profitable marketing. In the process they dismantle some common marketing myths, and provide helpful checklists for strategists.
For more insights on these topics, check out this study by Binet and Field from the journal of advertising research. The book is available for purchase on WARC.
Be on the lookout for a new book next month!