How strategic skills help teams win effectiveness awards

Our groundbreaking study of marketing award-winners has highlighted the importance of strategic skills to boost the effectiveness of work.

Of the many interesting findings emerging from the Aprais study that provided conclusive proof that stronger relationships produce stronger results, a recurring theme was around the issue of strategy.

A strategic advantage

Strategic skill showed the biggest gap when comparing scores of teams that won effectiveness awards and the average benchmark, making it a clearly differentiating skill for both clients and agencies and an area for future investment.

This crucial finding is backed by research showing the global upheaval of the past few years including the Covid pandemic, climate change, social and racial justice issues and the ever-changing media landscape has led to strategic expertise becoming more essential – and more valued – than ever before.

According to WARC’s Future of Strategy research, strategists themselves have historically felt undervalued within teams.

Strategic skills in demand

But the latest research, the Future of Strategy 2022, discovered that strategists see an opportunity to become true business partners with their clients and feel they have more influence with their clients than previously.

The report discovered that:

  • 59% of strategists surveyed feel they have more influence with clients than last year
  • 48% say they are spending more time working on upstream business and CMO priorities
  • 37% see helping clients understand changing consumer habits and behaviours as the biggest opportunity for strategists in the next year

‘Strategists are finding that their expertise is more essential than ever given the upheaval of the last few years,’ the report’s authors noted.

For client-agency teams, then, a focus on strategy is a differentiator as the cost of living crisis continues to present challenges to marketers.

Strategy and effectiveness

For readers unaware of the Aprais study it’s worth a recap to put the results into proper context.

Effectiveness report

We analyzed 9 years of effectiveness award winners globally, then sifted through them to see which of those winners had been evaluated by Aprais in the year leading up to the award. In that way we could be fairly confident that we had evaluation scores for the same team that was responsible for winning the effectiveness award.

We found about 280 such cases and were able to compare these winning teams with our database of around 26,000 client-agency evaluations over the past 20+ years.

We found that more than 68% of the awarded agencies in the sample set were above the average score and 67% of the awarded clients in the sample set were above the average score.

Stunning though these results may be, the extraordinary insight comes from diving deeper into the differences in functional skills and behaviours of the we can see what separates the winners from the average teams.

Not surprisingly, winning teams scored higher across most of the functional skills we monitor. But, as the chart above illustrates, it was the oft-overlooked area of strategy that was the highest differentiator among marketers and one of the highest for agencies too.

Skills, talent and teams

Winning an effectiveness award in marketing is no easy task. It requires a combination of extraodinary skill and talent. What this research reveals is the critical importance that strategy plays in the journey. It is a clear differentiator among award-winning marketers and a critical component of the agency skill-set.

While this may be instinctively obvious, what is less so is the importance of the overall client-agency relationship that provides the fertile basis for effective work to flourish.