From an advertising perspective, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a real-world presentation of the effectiveness vs. efficiency discourse that has dominated industry circles in recent years. As identified by Les Binet and Sarah Carter, effectiveness is “the extent to which you’ve reached your goals,” whilst efficiency is “a measure of effort needed to reach them”.

Overwhelmingly, the theory has fallen in favour of efficiency that works in service of effectiveness. As the reality of the pandemic hit, we saw very quick decisions made towards improving efficiencies, namely through budget cuts to advertising spends. It’s an understandable move in a time of crisis, but it’s also arguable that we haven’t applied that same clinical thought to protecting the infrastructure that helps us develop great work. As our industry continues to navigate uncharted territories on shrinking budgets, what techniques can we employ to help us best invent a future where highly effective work can flourish?

2020 has been a mirror to our industry, a stress-test for agile working, digital transformation and tech capabilities. This has been the year that saw the accelerated transition of these ideas from buzzwords into tangible, working principles. Previously, it was key to talk of these ideas to stay relevant. Now it’s key to adopt them to stay in business. But we’ve only really just got going. With a fail rate of 70 per cent for digital transformation initiatives (according to McKinsey & Company), it’s clear that beyond the current acceleration we still have a long way to go.

The effectiveness vs. efficiency debate was a hot topic prior to the pandemic; it is more pertinent now than it has ever been. With falling budgets, uncertain prospects and our own adaptation to new ways of working, there are challenges everywhere for agencies and advertisers alike. Here, we identify a three-part strategy to not only protect our need to deliver effective work now, but to help it flourish in the coming years.

1. EFFECTIVE TOOLS

Investing in the right tech platform is crucial to pivot this conversation. Technology should be built in such a way that it offers both the capacity and flexibility to provide best-in-class tools and applications in a single environment, thus allowing multiple scenarios to be created in delivering the objectives. There are six pressing questions that must be answered to deliver true value:

What is my ad-generated revenue?

What are my media-driven sales?

How profitable is my media investment?

What is the optimal budget for my brand?

How much incremental spend can I add to grow my brand further?

How should the budget be allocated across the channels?

These are burning questions we obsess over. In Q1, before the pandemic peaked in the region, we took to OMNI, our proprietary data-driven planning tool, to optimise budget splits across our brand portfolios to ensure short- and long-term growth. We are fortunate that we can benefit from pre-built modelling curves to help us determine the relationship between organic base sales and media-driven sales to assist the resetting of business operations and overall marketing mix. Unlike other market mix modelling solutions that take months to build, OMNI Investment Planner has the ability to deliver proper response curves bespoke to the brand in just three weeks; a win for clients when decision making at speed is imperative.

2. EFFECTIVE TALENT

Staying agile is critical when times are tough. It is essential to mix different expertise with an eclectic group of not only data scientists, measurement specialists and technologists. Also, be inclusive of creative thinkers, strategists and analysts to grow your business in the era of effectiveness. More than ever,
in a world where connectivity is often happening behind screens and away from the office, it is necessary to gather a diversified team who together can break norms and collaborate to unlock further business potential.

3. EFFECTIVE TECH

The arguments to not invest in intelligent automation are diminishing by the day. Creating an automated dashboard that integrates media metrics and, with sales figures in a single view, boosts productivity as it saves time and effort in reviewing multiple set of reports and swiftly unlocks the areas to be improved and optimised. Automating the process to break silos and getting visibility on all business aspects is highly critical to optimising business results. Evolving the measurement framework to be based on clear attribution models provides a clear view of the path to purchase across multiple channels by assigning fair credit to each interaction. Ultimately, having clear benchmarks and actionable metrics will unlock a higher level of effectiveness in performance marketing.

In the industry predictions written at the back end of 2019 for this year, a number of high-profile publishers riffed on the idea of ‘2020 Vision.’ One year on and a multitude of unpredictable events later, it’s now apparent that the only 2020 vision is in the hindsight we have on the many lessons learned. With the welcome news from Pfizer that a highly effective vaccine may well be imminent, it’s imperative that we heed these lessons. Our societies may soon return to a sense of normality, but our obligation to deliver effective work will only continue to grow.

This article was first published in Campaign Middle East.