Why we need to stop making stuff up and start awarding science and creativity in marketing

Adam FerrierAdam Ferrier reflects on why we need another awards show and how the newly launched MSiX Awards will champion better marketing.

I didn’t do very well at science at school, and to be honest I failed statistics the first time at university. On a really bad day I’ll even admit that science doesn’t interest me nearly as much as pure free form creativity. However, I’m still bamboozled by how unscientific our industry is and how much stuff we just ‘make up’. Further, with the amount of money at play this seems somewhat irresponsible.

I can still remember joining a market research agency after some years practicing as a psychologist. I couldn’t believe how ‘made up’ it all was, and how little science was embraced in both qualitative and quantitative agencies. I then went to a creative agency and they made the research agency look like the Smithsonian by comparison.  However, it was (admittedly 10 years ago) seeing how media plans were created that really blew me away. They were fictitious garbled nonsense with little (no) scientific underpinnings as to how agencies were recommending clients spend millions of their dollars.

Now to some extent things have changed. I recently took a brief from a client and the entire brief was framed in the marketing science principles developed by the Ehrenberg Bass Institute. It was refreshing and challenging, and I believe a canary in the coalmine for where our industry is heading.

As budgets get tighter, and the need to become more accountable for what we do, and why we do it increases, science and the scientific method will play a greater role in marketing communications (and in fact, it already is).

However, at the same time I believe the most powerful weapon in any marketer’s arsenal remains creative thinking. Science and creativity are not mutually exclusive – they complement each other. Done right, they reinforce each other.

I want our industry to embrace the marketing sciences because it will likely lead to better marketing, less wastage, more confidence and most definitely better ideas.

This is the reason we’ve developed the MSiX Australian Marketing Science Awards. We want to champion and document the best of marketing sciences in Australia. We would love it if Australia embraced these awards, and put forwards their best attempts at embracing marketing science in their practices. The awards are open to clients, agencies of all types (research, creative, media digital, PR and so on), consultants and universities. At a maximum of 1000 words, they won’t be too arduous to write, but will be judged carefully. We have some of Australia’s (and the world’s) best thinkers as judges of the awards, with their identities to be revealed shortly.

So please enter for a chance to win an MSIX award, and have your paper published in our journal.

As a final word, I’d like to make a pre-emptive defence to some of the comments that will no doubt appear below. Here we go.

Just what we need another awards show? I agree it’s unfortunate how cluttered the awards space is. A friend of mine sends me, as a joke, every email he receives encouraging him to enter awards. It’s been going for two years now and he’s becoming very annoying (he’s the CEO of a large media agency). However, there are no awards encouraging people to get involved in the marketing sciences. Further, we are hoping to document and publish all winning entries so we can disseminate best in class examples of marketing science in action.

Adam, who are you to champion science in marketing? This one I agree with! The loudest voice is rarely the smartest or most knowledgeable.  It’s another reason to run the awards – we want to out the people who are best at bringing science into marketing.

Awards are just a way to make money! Our awards are really cheap to enter (around $265). This is not going to make anyone wealthy. We just hope we don’t run them at a loss, and that they are strongly supported.

What about the Effies? The Effies are the pinnacle for proving effective marketing in Australia (and around the world). However, just because something is effective it doesn’t mean it’s repeatable, or even generalisable. The Effies do not encourage a scientific method or approach. In other markets there are awards encouraging science and behavioural economics (such as The Nudgies in the UK) that sit aside their IPA counterparts.  We believe the Effies and the MSIX Awards will both champion better marketing – albeit in a different way.

Adam don’t you have a day job you should be doing?  Yes. I better go do it!

MSiXAwrds_logo_FNLAdam Ferrier is curator of the MSIX conference, global CSO of Cummins & Partners, author of The Advertising Effect: How to change behaviour, and keen to see marketing embrace science as much as it does creativity.


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