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WARC the walk: Planning a path to greater creative effectiveness in PR

Posted by Paula Fifield on 5th July 2022

The Cannes Lions five-day International Festival of Creativity was held last month. Despite some amazingly creative entries, some things remained the same – not least the cynical LinkedIn posts pooh-poohing the event as being elitist.

That said, there were many positive changes, including the multitude of posts featuring Ryan Reynolds which only added to the glamour and celebrity of the event. I think it’s fun getting swept up in all the resulting inspiration and aspiration when you involve yourself in celebrating the most creative campaigns from across the world.

Every day is a school day

Even though Cannes Lions is better suited to big brands, big agencies – and even bigger budgets – there are lessons to be learned.

For me, the Engagement category delivered in partnership with LinkedIn-owned, ‘The B2B Institute’, offers some fantastic insight. The category covers the new Creative B2B Lions, Creative Data Lions, Direct Lions, Media Lions, and Social and Influencer Lions.

There is also the PR Lions, and it was fantastic to see our PROI partner, FischerAppelt, picking up a bronze award in this category.

In addition, the Strategy category which includes the Creative Effectiveness and Creative Strategy Lions awards, is also of huge interest.

Creative effectiveness

WARC (World Advertising Research Centre) and Cannes Lions – alongside authors James Hurman and Peter Field – have developed The Creative Effectiveness Ladder, a framework to evaluate the progress of effective marketing.

The ladder outlines six main levels of effectiveness achievement. It provides a shared framework for evaluating the effects of communications, marketers, and agencies so they can plan and benchmark their work far more accurately.

The levels move through Influential Idea, Behaviour Breakthrough, Sales Spike, Brand Builder and Commercial Triumph, concluding with Enduring Icon.

How committed are you?

Beyond benchmarking, The Effectiveness Ladder aims to highlight creative commitment (or lack thereof!) measured in terms of spend, duration and number of media channels.

Combining commitment and effectiveness in this way helps to advocate the value of long-term creative marketing while challenging short-termism. With all of this in mind, there has been a lot of coverage over the last week about how B2B is on the cusp of a creative revolution. If this is the case, it will be interesting to see how the B2B tech sector responds.

Limited or limitless value

I’m not clear whether every Cannes Lions track uses The Effectiveness Ladder as a means of scoring award entries or if it’s just those in the Strategy category.

Certainly, the budget parameters outlined by WARC are financial sums that most independent PR agencies could only dream about. This makes the WARC ladder feel a little prohibitive.

Having said that, the framework is still extremely useful and provides a good best practice pathway for planning creative campaigns from any marketing discipline. To get a foot on the first rung of the Effectiveness Ladder, it may be possible to take the various metrics and apply them at a level that makes sense for the brand/agency being evaluated, without worrying so much about the dizzying heights of Cannes Lions.

The missing piece of the puzzle

When it comes to creativity, Wildfire firmly believes that in addition to commitment and effectiveness, ambition plays a huge role.

Ambitious brands often have a commercial goal in mind, but the best ones also have an appetite for creativity – convinced that it will help to fast-track their journey to success.

If WARC/Cannes Lions feels a little beyond your reach right now, but you’re absolutely convinced that creativity could act as a key differentiator for your tech business in 2022/23, check out Wildfire’s Think.Bold approach to creative campaign planning.

For more examples of creative campaigns, check out this blog:


Paula Fifield

Paula began working with the agency in 2007 as Business Development Director and was appointed as a board director in 2011. Prior to Wildfire, Paula worked at Sun Microsystems, Orange and Morse Group in a range of marketing, customer relationship management and business development roles.