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55% of most impactful ad campaigns are digital-led

Warc has announced the 2016 results of the Warc 100, an annual ranking of the world’s best marketing campaigns and companies according to their business impact. The Warc 100 rankings are based on performance in effectiveness and strategy awards around the world, and are built on a rigorous methodology developed in consultation with King’s College London.

Ranked number one, ‘Penny the Pirate’ developed by Saatchi & Saatchi and OMD for Australian optical chain OPSM innovatively combined traditional and digital media, producing an engaging printed book and app to highlight vision problems in children. More than 126,000 parents bought the reading book, the number of eye tests conducted by OPSM increased by 22.6 per cent year-on-year, and its sales also grew by more than one fifth (22.4 per cent).

Looking at this year’s top 100 campaigns, there are a number of themes that emerge:

1.   Digital-led campaigns, particularly social media and online video, are delivering business results
Many of the winning campaigns use digital elements to deliver scale: in all, 11 of the 20 top-ranked campaigns (55 per cent) led with digital channels. Notable uses of digital include the ‘Live Test Series’ (ranked fifth) by Volvo Trucks – its YouTube video views of over 100m reached far beyond the brand’s niche target audience of truck drivers and resulted in a 23 per cent growth in sales in the fourth quarter of 2013 – and ‘If We Made It’ (ranked sixth) by Newcastle Brown Ale, which used online video to parody the advertising hype around the Super Bowl, increasing volume sales by over 20 per cent.

2.   More brands are using social activism extremely effectively to drive business
Pioneered by Unilever-owned brand Dove over the past decade (and sometimes dubbed “The Dove effect”), marketers around the world have learnt that taking a strong, socially progressive stance can help drive business impact. This need for brands to be seen as good corporate citizens has informed many top-performing marketing strategies, as is reflected in several top 20-ranked campaigns including ‘#LikeAGirl’ (second), ‘Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables’ (fourth), ‘I Will What I Want’ (10th), ‘Touch the Pickle’ (12th) and ‘This Girl Can’ (20th). Most brands choose relatively uncontentious causes, from encouraging female empowerment to cutting food waste, though with its ‘This is Wholesome’ campaign (seventh), US brand Honey Maid took a braver stand and selected a potentially divisive topic: celebrating alternative family structures.

3.   Procter & Gamble moves to No 1 advertiser globally
Procter & Gamble has improved its points total and ranking for each of the last three years and had nine campaigns in this year’s top 100, versus Unilever’s three. Last year, the FMCG giants’ positions were reversed: Unilever claimed first place overall, with six campaigns in the top 100, while P&G, in second, had three. Both companies have initiated an efficiency drive over the past few years, cutting spend on ‘non-working media’, a strategic change that has sparked debate about whether this limits the creation of impactful breakthrough advertising. Procter & Gamble’s strong performance in the current Warc 100 reflects the company’s continuing ability to develop powerful advertising that gets people talking. While Unilever remains a very effective advertiser, the latest results raise questions about the potential impact of cost cuts on the development of breakthrough marketing ideas.

4.   Breakthrough brands: IKEA, Heineken premier in top 10, and Tata rises to ninth global advertiser

  • IKEA: The Swedish retail brand’s global scale and consistent success across markets were key to its strong performance. Campaigns developed by agencies in 11 nations contributed to its overall total – and its fourth place in the brand ranking this year, up from 22 in 2015.
  • Heineken: Its broad portfolio of brands built its score: the core Heineken brand came 6th, while the Heineken company came 4th on the advertiser/brand owner rankings – both are record highs for the company. Heineken’s brand strategy of high-impact sponsorship of sporting events – from the UEFA Champions League to the Rugby World Cup – was the driver behind several campaigns that contributed to its points total.
  • Tata Group: A broad variety of categories contributed to the Indian conglomerate ranking ninth on the global advertiser rankings, up from 32nd place last year: Tata-owned auto, soft drinks, clothing and accessories, media and publishing, business and industrial and retail brands all played their part. More than half of the advertiser’s score came from campaigns running outside of its home market of India. Tata’s most successful campaign was ‘British Villains’, which was developed by Spark44 and ran in the US for Jaguar, the Group’s marquee automotive brand. This humorous integrated campaign came 14th in the top 100 campaigns ranking.

Focus on the UK

With only two campaigns in the top 20, the UK isn’t performing in the international rankings as well as in the past, although it retains its second place in the country table. Three’s ‘Holiday Spam’ campaign by Wieden+Kennedy is ranked number 13, and the much heralded ‘This Girl Can’ FCB Inferno campaign for Sport England number 20.

AMV BBDO is the only UK creative agency in the top 10. UK media agencies perform better, with PHD London and OMD UK being joined by ZenithOptimedia London (27th in 2015) in the top ten. OgilvyOne London moves up the digital/specialist agency ranking from tenth place last year to sixth in 2016.

The UK’s ad spend in 2015 was $23.9 bllion, a 4 per cent share of global spend. Comparative figures are: US $163.7 billion/27.6 per cent share, India $20.9 billion/3.5 per cent share and Australia $9.3bn/1.5 per cent share.

David Tiltman, Head of Content at Warc says: “The Warc 100 represents the best work in marketing – breakthrough campaigns that have delivered tangible results for their clients. The rankings are a benchmark of excellence in the industry. The clients and agencies that feature in them are some of the best in the business.”

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