The Effectiveness Code: The Need For Immediacy Has Spawned Idiocy

By Alizeh Rasool and Laura Gaggi


One of the largest studies ever done on marketing and advertising effectiveness called The Effectiveness Code was launched this year at the 2020 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. James Hurman, the founder of Innovation Company and marketing consultant Peter Field analyzed 4,863 advertising campaign award entrants and winners from various organizations around the world between 2011 to 2019 to ascertain a universal best practice for “creative effectiveness” and to build a new framework to improve the future value of marketing. The framework they developed called The Creative Effective Ladder, is basically a hierarchy of the main types of effects that creative marketing produces from least to most commercially impactful.


A very important concept around creative effectiveness called “CREATIVE COMMITMENT” emerged from the study. Hurman and Field discovered that marketing effectiveness is very much influenced by three main variables:

  • size of media budget

  • campaign duration

  • number of media channels used

The study concluded that a higher use of these three variables results in higher overall creative effectiveness. A higher creative commitment drives a brand to the top of the Creative Effectiveness Ladder and achieves what every business strives for, higher customer growth, greater market share and profit growth.

Over the past decade, and even more so in the past five years, to achieve immediate sales, many marketers have reduced their ad spending. In doing so, they have drawn numerous false assumptions about their campaigns which has resulted in some rather ineffective strategies.

In this blog we will focus on Creative Commitment and its effects on small budget campaigns. We will uncover these false assumptions and give Peloton’s point of view about the findings.

The Creative Commitment: MYTHS vs REALITY of Small Budget Campaigns

The study clearly identifies many myths that have been prevailing for years regarding small budget campaigns, which have made marketers abandon some of the very fundamentals of marketing and advertising principles. In their own words, Hurman and Fields stated that “small budgets are making us stupider”. They show great concern for what they call the “Collapse of the Creative Commitment”.


Here are four key myths being perpetuated that Hurman and Fields believe are causing a dangerous trend towards too much short-term thinking as well as devaluing the future of creative marketing.

#1 MYTH: It is less effective to spread the budget over many media.

REALITY: The study found that effectiveness is greater when used over a higher number of media channels. It is a wrong assumption that keeping a small budget limited to fewer channels will increase concentration and achieve a more focused approach. The research shows that effectiveness lifts to 69% when a greater number of channels is used and drops to a low of 39.5% when few channels are used.

Peloton’s POV: This is a fundamental principle of advertising. It is called REACH. Multi-channel campaigns provide REACH and should always be a priority. Campaigns that are too targeted and do not produce sufficient reach cannot generally meet required sales objectives to fund the advertising. Peloton has great expertise at planning the optimum balance to achieve effective campaign reach.

#2 MYTH: It is less effective to run campaigns at lower weight levels over a longer duration.

REALITY: As small budget campaigns increase in their duration; their effectiveness increases as well. Marketers falsely believe that shorter media campaigns will have greater impact whereas the study proves this to be incorrect. The study reveals that effectiveness increases to 74.1% for long duration campaigns, falling to 61.2% for medium durations and further down to 47.2% when campaigns are shorter in duration. Short-term spikes will occur with low commitments however, over the long term, overall growth is not sustainable.


Peloton’s POV: It takes time to build brand messaging, impact consumer behaviour and increase brand preference. Again, this is another fundamental principle of advertising that is being devalued. Peloton always strives to provide balanced strategies that consider available budgets with the need for longer campaign durations.

#3 MYTH: It is more effective to use media more contemporary media than traditional channels.

REALITY: The study identifies that there is a group of lead media that creates an effectiveness advantage. This group primarily consists of traditional channels like TV, PR and Direct Marketing, Event/Experiential and Sales Promotion. On the other hand, commonly believed “contemporary” or digital media channels like social media, online video and online display are more likely to create an effectiveness disadvantage.

Peloton’s POV: We have no doubt that the findings about greater effectiveness are true for traditional media. Peloton strongly believes that contemporary media (digital and emerging media) can be very effective if planned according to the principles of creative commitment and small budgets. Hurman also points out that high levels of creative commitment with campaigns using “contemporary” media can be very successful when high creative commitment is applied.

4# MYTH: It is more effective to use an informative creative strategy than a storytelling or humorous one.

REALITY: Researchers globally have stated that creativity delivers higher effectiveness when it produces communication that is unique, engaging and emotional. When it is presented in the form of a story, users feel a connect being developed with the company and can relate with their real-life experiences.

The WARC Effectiveness Database, used in the study for determining the relative effects of different strategies found when using emotional creative strategies, the index was at a positive 1.02 however, when rational creative strategies like information or advocacy were used, the index went to a negative 0.83. Overall, smaller budget campaigns were found to more likely use rational messaging than those with larger budgets.

Peloton’s POV: Never in doubt! We see our clients are falling into the trap of short deadlines and the need to increase immediate sales results. Marketers are forgetting to inspire and woo consumers with engaging media strategies and creative messages. Peloton has many examples of successful tried and tested campaigns that show how storytelling provides better customer engagement and results than those that are information based.

Effectiveness of Media Channels: Traditional vs “Contemporary”

The study identifies that even today, traditional media channels outdo contemporary or digital ones. The comparison of all media channels shows ‘direct marketing’ to be the most effective tool (3.0 points) compared to ‘online display’ being the least effective (0.3 points).

The study does not criticize contemporary/digital media channels nor does it question their ability. In fact, there have been many successful examples of marketers using them very effectively. Hurman believes that the industry is still in a phase of learning about how to use these media better. At Peloton we have over six years of great examples that show we can strategically plan and execute digital campaigns that provide great efficiencies and high marketing effectiveness scores.


Part of the study seeks to rectify how we have lost our way with trying to cope with smaller budgets and how we have lost sight of the most basic principles of our profession. If we continue to reduce our creative commitment for short-term gain, we in turn reduce the overall effectiveness of our brands and marketing efforts over the long term.

A strong platform for effective and positive change has been developed for our industry called The Effectiveness Code. We have a tool that can help us evaluate effectiveness of a campaign in advance of it running. We all need to slow ourselves down, take a deeper look and see that we cannot defy the fundamental principles of advertising that were around long before the internet and digital media advertising.

We should also all send a BIG THANK YOU to James Hurman, Peter Fields and Cannes Lions for introducing this great study to the world.