James Hurman and Peter Field release ‘The Effectiveness Code’ for Cannes Lions and WARC

James Hurman and Peter Field release ‘The Effectiveness Code’ for Cannes Lions and WARC

Cannes Lions, powering global best practice in creativity, together with sister company WARC, the global authority on marketing effectiveness, have today released The Effectiveness Code, a white paper presenting the results of a major new study carried out on their behalf by marketing effectiveness experts James Hurman and Peter Field.


In 2019, Hurman and Field undertook a global study involving a committee of international leaders from the world of strategy and planning, which revealed consensus that the industry lacked a ‘universal definition’ and ‘shared language’ of effectiveness, limiting the ability to what best practice effectiveness looks like.

A subsequent analysis and comparison of close to 5,000 effectiveness award entrants and winners from 2011 through 2019, sourced from the Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lions database (1,031 cases), WARC’s database (3,616) and the IPA databank (216), also uncovered a new principle of effectiveness. Hurman and Field discovered that marketing effectiveness is heavily influenced by a campaign’s ‘creative commitment’, a composite measure of media budget, duration and number of media channels applied.

These findings and how best to address them are outlined in The Effectiveness Code, one of the largest ever studies of marketing effectiveness in recent years, produced to help clients and agencies increase the effectiveness of their campaigns.

The Creative Effectiveness Ladder

In response to their findings, Hurman and Field, alongside Cannes Lions and WARC, have developed The Creative Effectiveness Ladder, a framework to evaluate the progress of effective marketing. It provides a universal definition and shared language for effectiveness and has been designed to be used as a continuous improvement tool for marketers and agencies, enabling them to produce more consistently highly effective creative campaigns and initiatives. The Creative Effectiveness Ladder outlines six main levels of effectiveness achievement, from least (level 1) to most commercially impactful (level 6). You can access the Creative Effectiveness Ladder graphic here.

Says David Tiltman, VP content, WARC: “The Creative Effectiveness Ladder is a huge step forward for the industry. With a shared framework for evaluating the effects of communications, marketers and agencies can plan and benchmark their work far more consistently.”

There are two key uses of the Creative Effectiveness Ladder:
– Identification of the very best creative work at each level and discovery of how to drive specific types of important marketing outcomes
– A continuous improvement tool for agencies and client marketers

Says Simon Cook, managing director, Cannes Lions: “Cannes Lions is committed to addressing the global community’s challenges with short-termism and proving the value of creative marketing. The Creative Effectiveness Ladder is a tool for change and the start of the mission. We’re currently working with the industry to identify how the Ladder can be used as a tool to judge the Creative Effectiveness Lion so that the global benchmark in creative and effective work is underpinned by this step forward in effectiveness.”

Creative Commitment

During Hurman and Field’s analysis they made a new discovery that marketing effectiveness is heavily influenced by a campaign’s degree of what they call Creative Commitment. Creative Commitment correlates very tightly with effectiveness – as Creative Commitment increases, so does effectiveness. To increase Creative Commitment, marketers have three ‘levers’ – spend, duration and number of media channels – and pulling any of these levers will give their work an effectiveness advantage.

Creativity is a fourth and highly impactful lever. Creatively awarded campaigns are much more effective overall, and at every level of Creative Commitment.

Says James Hurman, founding partner, Previously Unavailable and co-author of the report: “The message here is not that creative-award-worthy work is automatically effective. Rather that, if we have a well-planned and insightful strategy, we can magnify and supercharge the effectiveness of that strategic thinking with work that has creative-award-winning qualities.”

Says Peter Field, independent marketing and advertising consultant and co-author of the report: “Over the past five years, the marketing and advertising industry has increasingly reduced the Creative Commitment, which significantly mitigates the return on investment. We urge that marketers and their agencies work to reverse this trend, in the interests of improving both the effectiveness of their efforts and the overall value and reputation of marketing.”

The Effectiveness Code white paper is available to download at no cost here.

The report includes expert commentary, evidence, best practice examples, data analysis and recommendations to help the industry market more effectively.

The Creative Effectiveness Ladder was first revealed today at LIONS Live by James Hurman and Peter Field during their keynote session Cracking the Effectiveness Code. James Hurman will take a deep-dive into the Ladder in his session How to use The Creative Effectiveness Ladder, part of WARC’s LIONS Live on-demand content, available to view here.