Is short-termism destroying brand creativity?

The IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) have recently revealed results showing a dramatic fall in the effectiveness of all IPA case studies. Perhaps even more alarmingly, winning campaigns in the IPA effectiveness awards are now no more effective than non-awarded campaigns. The collapse in effectiveness and efficiency can be explained largely by the shift to short-term activation-focused creativity and the strategic and media trends this has promoted, notably on the understandings, or better put, misunderstandings, of how brands grow.

Most marketeers will appreciate the need to build a strong foundation and a codified identity for their brands, however while they make nods to these principles, targets and increasing budget constraints loom and the impetus inevitably falls on short-term tactical campaigns, undermining the role of advertising and marketing communications.

The shift towards short-term ‘disposable’ creativity and short-term executions has become inevitable in a time where digital media solutions and programmatically bought inventory so often focuses on quantity over quality. In trying capture as many eyeballs as possible, over time these tactical activations have actually damaged long-term performance. A campaign’s last-click performance should not be the be all and end all, but it is often taking centre stage.

For some brands this is not a revelation, and some have had the priority of longer-term brand building and messaging at the forefront of their campaigns for years; take the Nescafé Gold Blend family, and humorous ‘Should have gone to Specsavers’. These campaigns were created with their eye not only on the next quarter, but the next decade. More and more influential brands are taking this approach; Adidas announced last month that it was shifting its focus away from short-term brand metrics to a longer-term focus on brand health, citing their frustration with "the pressure to perform” having led to the bulk of their spend being allocated to short-term activations in recent years. Their competitor, Nike, also focus on longer term strategies brilliantly; as well as investing heavily in advertising, they invest in consumer experiences and do so in a way that feels core to its brand; authentic, not appropriated. Nike takes its digital and physical service model and adds a dose of sustainability and personalisation to the mix.

Notably, all these campaigns are building on their existing brand narrative as opposed to chopping and changing between different cultural relevancies and short-lived stories. If the campaign creative and idea does not match a brand’s pre-existing values, then they are doomed to only have short term effect. Nike is consistently able to do this, continually building their creatives and campaigns around the infamous ‘Just Do It’, which is more than just a strapline; it is the essence of the brand.

Short-termism is something that all brands will need to address if they want to improve their marketing effectiveness. Long-term strategy should not be an after-thought, but a priority.

If you would like to discuss any of the points raised in this article in more detail or if you would like to review your marketing planning more broadly please do get in touch on or call us on +44 (0) 203 0114 500