The 2020 IPA Effectiveness Awards will be announced during a free-to-access digital ceremony on the eve of Monday 12 October. WARC’s Lucy Aitken rounds up some themes from this year’s winning case studies.

The lessons from IPA Effectiveness Awards winners will be more potent this year given the backdrop of a global pandemic and recession. How to invest in brands long-term may not be uppermost in the minds of many marketers who are anxious about next quarter’s results. But the winning papers prove that it should be. Effectiveness takes time, commitment, investment and attention if brands want to win consumers’ time, commitment, investment and attention.


As the convenor of this year’s judges, Sue Unerman, Chief Transformation Officer, MediaCom, said: “The 2020 IPA Effectiveness Awards are inspirational. They show that effectiveness can and should be cemented into the culture of business.”

So how did this year’s winners achieve that? To find out who has won this year’s Awards, you’ll need to tune into the first digital IPA Effectiveness Awards ceremony on Monday 12 October at 5.30-7pm GMT, where 64 effectiveness case study entries are competing for a Bronze, Silver or Gold prize. Ten special prizes will also be announced on the night including the IPA’s Grand Prix winner, Effectiveness Company of the Year and Effectiveness Network of the Year. 

You can sign up for that event – and for the EffWorks conference programme that runs all week – here. It’s completely free of charge and you can watch from anywhere in the world.

So, without ruining any surprises for what promises to be a very special night next Monday, here are a few themes that this year’s winners have in common.

Challenger thinking is not confined to challenger brands

More established brands can benefit from thinking like challengers and identifying ways to appeal to new audiences, either through launching new products or taking inspiration from outside of their category. However, the most successful examples of challenger strategies have usually mined brand provenance, so their challenger activity does not come across as inauthentic.

Long-term investment builds trust

Trust has become a more important factor in all of our lives. Over the pandemic, for instance, there have been brands that have been applauded for getting the tone right – both in terms of action taken and messaging – and ones which have either been tonally deaf or conspicuous by their absence. Some of this year’s best-performing IPA Effectiveness papers confronted trust issues head on, often by simply listening to customers and fixing their pain-points and, in all cases, investing in brand.

… but short-term thinking still has a place

Many successful case studies showed that they had figured out their own combination of long- and short-term strategy. This meant that they didn’t entirely neglect the benefits of short-term investment at the expense of brand-building. Instead, they adjusted them so long- and short-term activations could work symbiotically. 

PR needs to be baked in

A few papers did an excellent job of earning media, often on limited budgets, with a PR strategy that was baked in. Several approaches were taken towards securing coverage, underlining the power of a 

seductive idea that translates into social channels and can be shared organically, as well as guaranteeing pick-up from news outlets. Considering the budget constraints that so many brands now find themselves under, there are huge learnings to be taken from these papers.

Data and tech can change the game entirely…

Some of this year’s winning entries showed brands deploying particular tech platforms or data systems on their quest for effectiveness. They show efficiency gains, a better understanding of consumer behaviour, and can set out a path for growth. 

… especially when combined with creativity

When a brand successfully blends the science of data with the magic of creativity, the outcome can be strikingly effective. This will be especially important in the increasingly digitised world where brands are jostling for our attention.

As Unerman says so elegantly: “Effectiveness cannot and should not be left solely to the strategists and the econometricians any more than creativity should be the sole remit of the creative department; or diversity and inclusion left exclusively to the human resources team. It is the responsibility of every leader, and every putative leader, to own, to develop, to pioneer and to preach effectiveness in every organisation. Any business that fails to put effectiveness at its heart and through every muscle and sinew is shortchanging its clients, its shareholders, its customers, and its own future.”

Enjoy the Awards and remember that all the IPA papers will be available on WARC after the ceremony has ended on Monday 12 October at 8pm BST.

You can see the full Effworks agenda and sign up to attend the Awards and sessions for free here