Does ‘The Long and the Short of It’ need ‘The Wrong and the Shit of it’?

09/07/2018

In July, the nervous wait will be over when the IPA Effectiveness Awards shortlist for 2018 will be released. These are the big ones – awards judged solely on campaign effectiveness, and not ‘brand purpose’ or the shiniest production. The IPA uses these award submissions as a wider litmus test to gauge an understanding of what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to long-term marketing performance; the association’s most famed book on the subject, The Long and the Short of It, is widely lauded by marketers.

In a recent BBH Labs blog post of the same name, Harry Guild disputes the ad industry’s obsession with trying to find a magic formula for success by looking at what works. He makes the point that by only focussing on success stories, as per The Long and the Short of It, we’re all falling victim to survivorship bias – what he refers to as “our tendency to construct faulty ‘learnings’ from winners at the expense of more complex
contextual datasets”.

It’s an entirely valid point. And we’d also add that the IPA’s case studies tend to be centred around large brands with the budgets to match, and so the relevance of their findings to most advertisers can be questioned.

As with most BBH Labs posts, Harry’s observations prompted a wave of firm agreement. “Yeah! What do Binet and Field really know anyway?!”. But Les Binet doesn’t suffer challenges to his throne gladly. In true rap battle style, he made an immediate (albeit very well-mannered) comeback in a post entitled “Good, better, best and f*** the rest?”.

Binet’s riposte highlights his belief that there’s sufficient variance in the quality of the case studies submitted (there are some right ‘clunkers’ in there apparently) to draw statistically robust conclusions. Before dropping the mic he went on to highlight his agreement with Harry by name-dropping his new book: How Not to Plan – 66 Ways to Screw It Up. Always one step ahead.

Our view is fairly simple. The IPA’s analysis is the single most useful source of evidence for advertising effectiveness in the world. While the datasets are much smaller than the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute’s, their relevance to most UK advertisers is unparalleled. And while we should never blindly follow their advice, it’s to be ignored at our peril. Big up Binet and Field – we’re a more effective industry thanks to them.

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