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Effectiveness guru Peter Field’s evidence-based case for brand-building advertising in Canada

As a proud sponsor of the Canadian Effectiveness Summit and Effie Canada, it was a privilege for thinktv to welcome Peter Field, the renowned advertising effectiveness expert, to the virtual stage for his talk, “The Drivers of Marketing Effectiveness – 7 Principles of Success”.

Peter’s insightful presentation provided evidence, much of it reinforced with new Canadian data, that shows brand building is vital in boosting advertising effectiveness.

We asked UK marketing writer Ian Darby to summarize the presentation and key findings. You can watch the full video presentation here.

Peter Field has long suggested that the balance between short-term sales activation and long-term brand building is out of kilter, and that imbalance is having a negative impact on effectiveness: Too many brands are focusing too heavily on short-term tactics which, while they may drive short spikes of sales activation, will have very little impact on long-term growth.

Peter’s research has focused primarily on UK case studies, but for the first time he had access to Canadian data thanks to the Canadian Effie database. Does the same hold true in Canada?

Yes. Peter started his presentation by highlighting the significant increase in effectiveness of longer term campaigns in Canada, which better drive both market share and profit gain.

And longer term brand building campaigns work best on broad reach media. In a slide titled “The ROI Trap for Canadian Media,” he demonstrated that while search and online display advertising are key drivers of short-term ROI, they lag far behind TV when it comes to propelling profit: “TV, followed by online video and OOH, are very much the media choices you’d make if you’re looking to drive long-term profit.”

To be truly effective, Field has outlined “7 Principles of Success”:

  1. Build mental availability. Mental availability is the propensity of a brand to be noticed and/or thought of in buying situations, per Byron Sharp and his ubiquitous book How Brands Grow. Field suggests that it’s critical you create powerful brand associations; he added that fame-based campaigns are four times as efficient as others, and cites Snickers’ ongoing “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” work as an example: “It’s built around a lovely emotional insight and is a great model for long-term growth. And TV is right at the core of it.”
  1. Aim for distinctiveness. “Distinctiveness is much more effective than differentiation,” Field explains. Brand assets will have a bigger impact in advertising than focusing on features.
  1. Engage emotionally. Emotions work harder than a rational approach when it comes to brand building: “Even in rational and heavily researched categories, it’s still important to have a powerful emotional platform behind you.” To make the point, Field references advertising from Effie Canada award winners IKEA (“Bedtime”) and Huggies (“No baby unhugged”).
  1. Get Creative.“Creatively-awarded campaigns over the past 20 years tend to be much more effective than non-creatively awarded because they drive high levels of fame and long-term effects,” says Field. “Emotion, surprise, and distinctiveness are all facets of creativity.”
  1. Be consistent. “To get the most out of creativity you need to commit to consistency over time.” Field argues that “fluent brand devices help to drive growth”; characters like M&Ms, or an organizing idea such as Mastercard’s “priceless,” enable brands to glue activity together over a long period of time. “Don’t keep reinventing your campaign every six months because someone’s told you to be agile,” he warns.
  1. Go for reach. Field emphasizes how important it is to bring in new consumers – “you’ve got to be looking for people in the category that aren’t buying the brand.” He showcases Canadian data that highlights the importance of targeting both customers and non-customers to boost market share. “Go broad and use media like TV that can deliver an interesting brand story and is broadly targeted.”
  1. Balance media. And balance short term activation techniques with long-term brand building activities. Brands that strive for the optimum 60/40 split between brand building and activation tend to enjoy the best results: “Sixty per cent is about broad reach media, delivering emotional priming messages and building mental availability.” TV, particularly supported with online video, is an effective use of media budget in this respect. Field notes that COVID-19 has tipped the balance even further towards more short-term, activational advertising, but cautions against it: “If you’re not making investments in the brand now, during the recession, when it comes to recovery you’re going to have a weakened brand.”

Field’s overall conclusion is that there’s a continued need for brand building, and that TV plays an important role within this: “Brand building is becoming more important, not less. The more brands are traded online, and the more activation becomes easy, the more we need to tilt to brand building, because that’s not getting any easier.”

To watch the Peter Field presentation, or for other marketing effectiveness research and reports, go to

thinktv is a partner of the Institute of Communication Agencies. Report on Marketing is where leading Canadian agencies showcase their insights, cutting-edge research and client successes. The Report on Marketing provides a valuable source of thought leadership for Canadian marketers to draw inspiration from. Find more articles like this at the Report on Marketing.

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