• Bonny Van Rest

5 Insights on Marketing Effectiveness from the Effie Awards

Lessons I learned from being a final round judge for the Effie Awards Canada


As a final round judge for the Effie Awards Canada I had the honour of reviewing Canada’s best of the best work in various categories ranging across industries, types and sizes of organizations, and campaigns. The Effie Awards have recognized the very best in marketing effectiveness. Only campaigns that make a significant business impact are being recognized.


Photo of four Effie Canada Awards
Image from Effie Canada

The experience of reviewing and rating the case studies itself was in and of itself inspiring. But even more valuable were the discussions held with 8 other senior leaders in the Canadian marketing industry. Personally, I learned a lot through this process and would recommend anyone in the marketing industry to take any opportunity to be a judge for marketing or strategy awards.


Here are some of the most important insights I took away from this experience:



1. Great Creative Does Not Always Equal Great Strategy

Admittedly, I’ve always thought that awards were too focused on the creative side and not enough focus on whether the work led to actual business results. In great marketing, we should always aim for the right balance, and a strong connection, between strategy and creative.


The best way to do this is to establish a rigorous process that starts with identifying the business problem and goals, then gathering the human insights (not just stats or data, an ‘unspoken human truth’), developing a strategy that leverages these unique insights AND provides an answer to the business problem. Only then, you can start the creative process to bring this strategy to life and accelerate impact. Great creative that has a strong strategy behind it, will drive business results.

Gold-Award Winner PPAQ (Erable du Quebec), stood out to me in having a very consistent strategy, from business problem to insights and from strategy to execution. As it turned out that most Quebecers use Maple Syrup only for breakfast, the campaign ‘Good in Everything’ helped grow and diversify the usage of maple Syrup in Quebec. Although they leveraged traditional media, they did find creative ways by high-jacking other food ads on multiple touchpoints and associating maple syrup to a wider range of occasions and meals.

2. Effectiveness Comes in Many Ways

Putting it boldly, marketing ultimately has one goal: driving business results. These results often are some form of sales, revenue generation or creating demand. However, it’s our job as marketers to do this in the most effective way possible, optimizing the return on investment. To do so, we can’t always jump straight into conversion tactics and expect the best results. It often requires a combination of tactics on all levels of the marketing funnel and continuous finetuning and optimizing.


Therefore, when looking at effectiveness, the case studies that stood out most were the ones that showed a thorough understanding of how each of the different tactics ultimately work together to drive revenue or increase sales, saw a continuous optimization of the entire process to reduce the required investment, and found ways to be more effective in certain parts of the funnel by doing things differently than the industry standard.


The Bronze-Winning Case Study of Leon’s ‘surprising stylish’ campaign is a great example of optimizing effectiveness across the entire funnel. Their challenge was being perceived as a brand that was ‘stuck in the past’ and therefore did not appeal to the style-conscious millennial. Through a strategy that improved the style perception of their brand, Leon’s saw an increase in Top of Mind first mention, in brand perception, website traffic, and ultimately a >35% growth in conversions.

3. More Money Is Not More Effective

To build on the previous lesson, being effective is always a combination of the obtained results and the investment required. Larger budgets do not always lead to better results. In fact, often smaller budgets force us to be smarter, more creative and find the best ‘bang for our buck’. So, when you’re considering your marketing budget, always focus on ROI and choose the budget that’s right for your organization.


The Bronze-winning Campaign by Interval House, to provide lifesaving information to abused women in discreet ways, shows how a smaller budget can drive creativity and effectiveness. With a 30% increase in domestic violence during the pandemic, Interval House Women’s Shelter found a very effective way to reach women with lifesaving information in the one place a man would never look…. A tampon. This approach led to an 805% increase in women seeking help.

4. Marketing Is More than Advertising

One of the most common misconceptions about marketing is that the discipline of marketing is often interpreted as strictly advertising. This often leads to battles over budget and understanding the true value of it for the company. The three previous lessons will already help marketers have that conversation and demonstrate the true value of marketing. As marketers, we also need to keep ourselves accountable for demonstrating and staying true to the bigger picture of what marketing is and the value that it brings to any business. It may be a bit old school, but ultimately the P’s in the Marketing Mix continue to be a great guidance to adopt a holistic approach to marketing.


In reviewing this year’s case studies, it was inspiring to see the ways in which many were able to rise above and beyond the discipline of advertising and showed a holistic approach to the business, with changes to or alignment with the product, the process or place.


A great example is the Silver-Winning ‘Haulers' campaign from No Frills, which shows how a brand that had been competing in the supermarket space of ‘being the cheapest’, could reposition itself as a lifestyle brand for ‘savvy shoppers’. Instead of engaging further in price wars, they managed to attract a broader audience, change how the brand is perceived and how consumers behave. Creative executions in merchandise, competitions, e-games etc. They saw their average YOY Q3 sales grow with +2.07% and has challenged the way grocery stores should behave.

5. Purpose Can Accelerate Effectiveness

At a recent marketing event THRIVE, by ICA, Steve Harrison (author of Can’t Sell, Won’t Sell) shared a thought-provoking perspective on how the ad industry has become too obsessed with purpose and has forgotten about its own purpose of selling. Although I can see the point he, and others like a recent Wall Street Journal headline, are making, I personally believe that purpose and selling are not mutually exclusive, and when done right, can accelerate one another. Patagonia is an example that often comes up in conversations around purpose driven brands, authenticity and making a true impact. But on a smaller scale, I see many examples of where an authentic brand purpose leads to a loyal customer base, and results in impact for both business and society. If you’re passionate about this topic, check out this podcast episode and what D&AD Chairman Tim Lindsay has to say about the role of advertising.


Ikea won a Silver Effie Award, for their ‘ScrapsBook’ campaign, which was very strongly aligned with their purpose to ‘create a better everyday life for the many people.” A purpose that goes beyond home furnishing, and easily translates into a positive impact on the world - from the communities where they source raw materials to the way IKEA products help our customers live a more sustainable life at home. In this case study, the IKEA ScrapsBook was created, a tool to help Canadians waste less. The ScrapsBook increased sales (+10%), visitation (+16%), and perceptions that IKEA has a positive impact in the world (+3%), earning global press on IKEA’s sustainability efforts. For me a very interesting case, that demonstrates

Looking to Improve Your Marketing Effectiveness? Start with the 4 Ps.

Overall, the experience of being a judge has provided me with some great additional insights on how brands can improve their Marketing Effectiveness. What it comes down to for me is a holistic and integrated approach to marketing, where the return on investment should always be at the forefront of defining your strategy. Your strategy should align with your purpose, your business goals, the problem you’re solving and who you’re solving it for. The creative execution should be considered in a broader perspective than advertising alone and has enormous potential to accelerate the results for the business. All this can only be done with the right people on board!

Sounds an awful lot like our Entrepreneurial Design framework build on balancing Purpose, Passion, Profit & People (aka the 4Ps).

About the Effie Awards Canada

For over 50 years, in over 50 countries, the Effie Awards have recognized the very best in marketing effectiveness. Only campaigns that make a significant business impact are being recognized. The Effie Awards in Canada are run by the ICA, and bringing together Marketing Professionals from agencies as well as brand side to serve as judges.


After the announcement of the 2022 finalists on September 29th , the bronze winners were announced on October 6, and will be followed by the Silver Winners on October 13th, the Gold Winners on October 20th. As well, the Canadian Creative Effectiveness Summit will be hosted on October 27th at the LinkedIn office and streamed on LinkedIn live. As the winners get announced this blog will be updated with winning case studies supporting the 5 lessons in this blog. So stay tuned, and follow our LinkedIn to be the first to receive updates!





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(Photo description: Photo of four Effie Canada Awards)