Advertising is an extraordinary thing. Outside the business world, there are those who see it as a pernicious, all-powerful force, moulding us to do what we otherwise would not do. Inside business, the picture is utterly different. Some see advertising as integral to business success, but others worry that it can be wasteful and self-indulgent.
Each year, something like Cdn$500 billion is invested in advertising worldwide. As the US Senator Everett Dirkson said, "a billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking money." It’s safe to say that these billions are being invested in the hope of a reasonable return. Even so, it is never certain that the campaign you are about to launch right here, right now, will achieve this.
Until about 30 years ago, the prevalent opinion in marketing and advertising was that cause and effect between advertising and business success was virtually impossible to prove—because of the difficulty of extracting the effect of price, promotion, product, competitive activity etc. This was captured in the quote that has become a cliché in the industry, "I know half of my advertising is wasted. I just wish I knew which half." [The quote comes in many variations, and the balance of evidence lays it at the door of Lord Leverhume, the "Lever" in Unilever. It has also been attributed to the US retailer John Wannamaker, amongst others.]
Even today, it is difficult to isolate the effect of advertising in the marketing mix. But in the late 70s some agency leaders in the UK decided that this had to be the goal. They launched the IPA Effectiveness Awards in 1980, with the winners decided on the basis of a rigorous business case. These Awards have continued every two years, and many winning cases are masterpieces.
In the early 90s, Rupert Brendon realized that Canada needed its equivalent to the IPA Awards, and with a team of colleagues launched the CASSIES in 1993. They ran every two years through 2001, and annually thereafter-and there are over 350 winning cases in the Case Library.
Advertising, like all communication activity, is a tool to do a job. The CASSIES formalized that in the following mandate:
To prove by rigorous case study that advertising is a prudent commercial investment—not a cost—that pays out against measurable criteria, in a wide variety of circumstances. Furthermore, to publish winning case histories, thereby raising the standards of marketing and advertising best practice. The case will be a joint-submission from advertiser and agency, and the prestige of winning will go to the entire client-agency team.
Over the years, the definition of advertising has expanded to include all forms of persuasive communication, and advertisers have been shy about publishing profit numbers. Even so, it would be fair to say that the CASSIES has stayed true to this mandate.
Click Here to see what Canada's marketing communications leaders and university professors have to say about the CASSIES.