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Thursday Thinky: Effectiveness, Impact & Strategy

For this week’s edition of our Thursday Thinky, we took a slightly different approach.

We chose four campaigns from the last year and looked at them through the lens of effectiveness. We have two powerful stunts that happened in New York to call out the US government’s child detention policy at border camps, and inaction on gun reform. We are also sharing with you a campaign that impacted Californians’ energy consumption habits. And last, but definitely least, a head-scratching strategic approach to recruiting more organ donors.

Happy Thursday!





Energy Upgrade California –The most energy efficient campaign ever (Ad Forum)

We thought this one was super interesting for a few reasons.
1) The idea of the campaign having to “walk the walk” by saving energy itself is pretty clever to get people to realize that small energy-saving actions can add up to something big. It was unexpected enough to get people to pay attention, and because it was designed to be cross-channel, folks were getting the message multiple times, increasing the likelihood of it really sinking in.
3) They measured success in multiple ways, and not just the traditional engagement, impression, click metrics. They also studied mindset and behavior shifts, which directly tied to the goals of the campaign of changing Californian’s energy consumption habits. How? By deploying a brand tracker, of sorts, to measure attitude, sentiment, and behavior intent, both before and after the campaign. Before the campaign, it showed a big gap between CA folks saying they support saving energy, and actually taking action to do it. After the campaign, that gap was nearly non-existent. We know people don’t always tell the truth on these kinds of things (we all like to believe we’re going to change!), but even just the shift in intent is significant–and a very tangible way to show impact that’s more directly related to the issue objective than the marketing one.
Effectiveness Grade: A- Opting to “lead by example” to get through to an audience that has been hearing the same energy saving tips for many years proved very effective. The tools they used to measure and show the effectiveness of the campaign were insightful and aligned with their overall mission, and tells a much more powerful impact story than just reporting on clicks. Well done.





RAICES – #NoKidsInCages NYC Stunt (Art Net)

The timeliness of this was, of course, critical. This campaign came together to support the Keep Families Together Bill before Congress voted on it. It also needed to be done very early in the morning so that people would see the sculptures when they came out of the subway. RAICES knew they wouldn’t last long out on the street.
It had to be concepted and executed quickly, it had to be big, and in order to make its point, it had to break the rules. We loved that the agency and organization used local NYC street artists to create the installations and that they also included real sound clips from reporters who had visited the detention centers since sound was all that reporters were able to capture (no photos or videos were allowed).

Part of the irony, and the power of this, is that the installations garnered so much media and law enforcement attention that were taken down within a few hours. But the kids being held (and dying) in detention centers continued. It’s a fascinating study in what we respond and react to as humans, and as a government :/.

Effectiveness Grade: A. From beginning to the end, this campaign was spot on. The innovative thinking behind this idea and the shock value really helped with one of their main goals, raising awareness around this issue. We don’t have the data on whether this stunt drove an increase in site visits or donations, but as those were tertiary goals, we still believe this was a home run.



Change The Ref – Transforming Fearless Girl into #FeafulGirl as a symbol for gun reform (Ad Week)

Much like the RAICES cages, this stunt needed impeccable timing and needed to break the rules, in order to work. And it did both in the simplest, most powerful way. By taking a modern cultural icon of empowerment–Fearless Girl–and re-contextualizing it in light of the everyday fear of school shootings that our kids are actually living with–they created an incredible contrast of hope and inaction that speaks volumes. The campaign took place on November 2nd, a few days before the midterm elections to raise awareness around gun reform.


One of the reasons this left such an impression on our team is that Change the Ref is not a big name anti-gun organization. They’re not Sandy Hook Promise or Brady or Everytown or Moms Demand Action. They are a nonprofit formed by the parents of a student who died at the Parkland shooting.  They spent $800 on it. That’s IT. They bought a bulletproof vest and customized it to put on Fearless Girl in order to turn her into Fearless girl. They spent zero on media. And the stunt earned nearly $500K worth of free media coverage (however that’s calculated) because of how arresting it was. It also helped that the police shut it down within two hours, which, also like the RAICES stunt, only makes it that much more effective.


Effectiveness Grade: A+. Big ideas don’t always need big budgets. The strategic idea brought forth to tackle the context of gun violence in schools, paired with a flawless execution, make this campaign memorable. And the tagline, “She can’t be fearless if she’s afraid to go to school,” ties it all together in a way that can’t help but sting every parent’s heart.




Donate Life CA – Giving second chances to speeders (The Drum)

The objective with this initiative was an admirable, and relatively clear one: recruit more organ donors in California. Their research uncovered two really interesting insights into why more people aren’t getting involved: first, the place where most people are asked to register as an organ donor is at the DMV, the least inspiring or goodwill-inducing place on earth; and second, people are most likely to give of themselves when they experience or recall situations where they were on the receiving end of someone else’s kindness–essentially, we need to remember what gratitude feels like for ourselves in order to be compelled to pay it forward to others.


All makes sense, right? But, here’s where the head-scratching comes in. Instead of coming up with a program that built on either of these insights, they went a completely different direction… which was to thank existing organ donors by letting them off of a speeding ticket. Is it a lovely gesture to say thanks to those who have already made a selfless decision? Of course. Was it a pretty big feat to get law enforcement involved (which was also a perception boost for them)? Definitely. But did it effectively make anyone more compelled to sign up? Did it take advantage of either of the twi powerful insights they uncovered? Nope and nope. For us, this missed the mark completely and did nothing to achieve their intended objective. What do you think? What would you have done differently?


Effectiveness Grade: C. This may feel harsh, but the execution fell short compared to the insights they uncovered.  Strategy and creative are both equally important, and one can’t succeed alone without the other. It’s so critical to make sure all of the dots are connected–that your insight is about the human situation or issue situation, and that the creative actually speaks to that insight.


There’s so much more to talk about when it comes to effectiveness and measurement…but that’s a post for another day. Thanks for reading today’s Thinky. See you next week!

PS: If any of the above made your wheels spin, we’d love to hear your thoughts–get in touch with us!

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