Over-emphasis on activation and tactics limits marketing effectiveness, WFA study finds

Over-emphasis on activation and tactics limits marketing effectiveness, WFA study finds

6 minute read

Effectiveness culture is not being delivered because the steps required before and after activation are not in place. Five key areas for improvement are: sharper processes, better measurement, new tools, smarter insights and greater collaboration.

Article details

  • Author:WFA


Press releases
23 August 2023
Marketing Effectiveness
WFA member? Download the study here. Not a member? Download it here.

Marketers are not creating the best marketing effectiveness culture because they are failing to address all the elements of the marketing effectiveness ‘Process’, according to a new study by WFA, Ebiquity and IPA. 

Creating a Global Culture of Marketing Effectiveness finds that while overall marketing effectiveness culture is performing acceptably – scoring 6.5 out of 10 – Process, the glue that pulls together the three other key elements (People, Focus, and Data & Tools), scores just 5.7.

Detailed analysis of the processes being used by thousands of marketers working for national and multinational brands around the world finds significant weaknesses, with an overemphasis on activation and tactical delivery at the expense of key steps such as identifying the business challenge and setting up an effective measurement framework.

Based on a survey conducted in partnership with 20 national advertiser associations including AANA (Australia), ACA (Canada), and UPA (Italy), as well as take-outs from the WFA’s Forum Connect meetings in Amsterdam and Singapore, Creating a Global Culture of Marketing Effectiveness is designed to provide a rounded perspective on what needs to be improved in 2023.

"The results of this study present a tremendous opportunity for growth. As marketers, it's vital to focus not only on delivering plans, but also on understanding the 'why' behind our activities. Prioritizing measurement and understanding the value of our marketing efforts, both in the short and long-term, will pave the way for true effectiveness", says Matt Green, Director of Global Media at WFA.

The study divides the process of marketing effectiveness into five key steps, with the best performing one being ‘Activating marketing activities across chosen channels’ (which scored 7.0 out of 10). All other steps were found to be significantly weaker, with ‘measuring the impact in a timely manner’ scoring 5.8.

The first part of any process should be knowing what the business challenge is that marketing is being asked to solve. This should come from having a clearly defined measurement framework but just 41% of all respondents agree that they have this in place. Among respondents with an Insights/Effectiveness role (22% agree) or National role (24% agree), the results are even poorer, indicating that there is a clear disconnect, with those closer to the data (and the market) least likely to feel they have the right framework in place.

There is reasonable confidence among respondents that they have the right tools to explain how marketing has performed (55% agree), but much less confidence that they have the tools to predict how marketing will perform (34% agree). The result is that most respondents focus on efficiency at the expense of effectiveness. Fifty-two percent of respondents agree that they focus too much on efficiency because without the right blend of measurement tools efficiency is much easier to measure.

There are also signs that lack of organisational teamwork is hindering marketing effectiveness. While just a one fifth of Insights/Effectiveness respondents agree that their tools are used to create the right insight at the right time to suit the marketing planning process, 54% of Marketing/Media respondents say this does happen. This indicates that too often the Insight function sits outside of the decision-making rhythm of the rest of the marketing function.

Creating a Global Culture of Marketing Effectiveness identifies five key areas for improvement: 

  • Sharpen the Process: marketing is too focused on the delivery and needs to improve its understanding of objectives and measurement and results. Key to this is the creation of an effectiveness roadmap as well as ensuring that there is organisational awareness and understanding of what this document is and what it will deliver.
  • Cascade a comprehensive measurement framework: establish a well-defined measurement framework that assesses both short-term and long-term impacts of marketing activities.
  • Demand and implement better tools: invest in predictive tools offering precision and granularity for essential marketing effectiveness use-cases.
  • Create better insights: Enhance credibility by aligning marketing effectiveness insights with the decision-making rhythm of the business through increased collaboration across teams.
  • Strengthen collaboration: collaboration needs to improve with a number of teams. This includes Marketing with Finance, Insights with Insights, which don’t always collaborate well across their various global, regional and local teams, and Procurement with all departments on effectiveness topics.

"To truly boost marketing effectiveness in 2023 and beyond, organizations need to take action in these key areas. By understanding the 'why' behind their marketing activities and prioritizing comprehensive measurement, companies can create a more holistic culture of marketing effectiveness. Moreover, fostering organizational teamwork and integrating the Insight function into the marketing decision-making rhythm will result in a more collaborative and successful marketing effectiveness culture", says Mike Campbell, Managing Principal, International Analytics, Ebiquity.

“This report is another big step in pushing the effectiveness agenda in the boardroom globally and builds perfectly on from our IPA Effectiveness Roadmap Reports for 2021 and 2022. The industry conversation has clearly moved on from defining what marketing effectiveness is and now real effectiveness value will be generated by changing ways of working (‘the Process’), creating better organisational alignment behind marketing effectiveness, and enabling people to become more confident that marketing activity will deliver the right short and long-term business value. The IPA continues to help agencies and their brand partners to build a deep and enduring effectiveness culture, as well as celebrating the most effective work”, says Laurence Green, Director of Effectiveness, IPA.

 WFA member? Download the study here.
Not a member? Download it here.

About this study

The study received more than 300 responses in total across a cross-section of marketing disciplines. While a large share of respondents were in global roles, the sample was supported through the participation from the members of 20 of WFA’s national advertiser associations, helping to create a mixed global and local sample of client-only responses.

The survey has been developed to run alongside client-only WFA Forum Connect events – mini-conferences for a mixture of marketing disciplines, all focused on effectiveness. So far, WFA has held Forum Connect sessions in Amsterdam (September 2022) and Singapore (July 2023) and will host a similar gathering in New York November 16 this year.


About Ebiquity

Ebiquity is the world leader in media investment analysis. It delivers data driven solutions that create value and eliminate waste, enabling brand owners to increase returns from their media investments and improve business outcomes.

Their independent fact-based advice is delivered through four service lines:

  1. Media Management
  2. Media Performance
  3. Marketing Effectiveness
  4. Contract Compliance

Ebiquity stands out, because they do things differently:

Independent advice

Ebiquity can provide independent advice and solutions, because it has no commercial interest in any part of the media supply chain.

Unparalleled data expertise

Ebiquity analysis c.$100bn of media spend and contract value from 110 countries annually, including trillions of digital impressions.

Innovating for the future

Solutions for the challenges of today and tomorrow, including CO2 emissions, disinformation, diversity, and rapidly emerging channels. 

Global reach and expertise

Ebiquity covers 80% of the global advertising market, providing it with the most comprehensive, independent view of the world’s media investment.

More than 70 of the world’s top 100 advertisers today choose Ebiquity as their trusted independent media advisor.

Creating a Better Media World, Together.


About IPA

Incorporated by Royal Charter, the IPA’s role is to advance the value, theory and practice of advertising, media and marketing communications; to promote best practice standards in these fields; and to ensure that the work it does will benefit the public, the wider business community and the national economy.

It has a well-earned reputation for thought leadership, best practice and continuous professional development, including the IPA EffWorks initiative. IPA EffWorks is a reservoir of learning, research and with the ambition is to provide the marketing industry with resources and tools to change its culture and to realise the potential of truly accountable and effective marketing.

Article details

  • Author:WFA


Press releases
23 August 2023