A Guide to Maximising Creative Effectiveness

How can we, as an industry, become more consistently successful at highly effective creative marketing? Cannes Lions and WARC sought to understand how our global community could better share what they have learned about effectiveness, for the sake of continuous creative improvement. This is our answer.

A Universal Language

Uncover a new framework and common language with one of the largest studies in marketing effectiveness.

Introducing the Creative Effectiveness Ladder

The Ladder unlocks a shared language for people in the business of creativity who aim higher. It’s a way for the industry to identify the very best work and understand how to utilise creativity to drive specific marketing outcomes. Cannes Lions and WARC's vision is that marketers will turn their version of the Ladder into a critical, continuous tool for improvement - adopting the framework and making it their own.

Ladder graphic large 2


Influential Ideas use creativity to maximise engagement and sharing, resulting in the work over-achieving on metrics and media efficiency.

To achieve this level, marketers must track and measure campaign-level metrics such as recall, social shares and earned media value. Our analysis has revealed that capitalising on a major moment, taking the side of the consumer and fighting against injustice are successful strategies to unlock level 1.



Behaviour Breakthroughs use creativity to change the purchase behaviour of customers - or to change other forms of behaviour relevant to the success of the brand.

Marketers should track and measure behavioural metrics such as penetration, loyalty and frequency of purchase. We found that setting a clear behavioural goal, orienting the creative idea around a clear behavioural outcome and seeking to make a new behaviour more attractive are successful strategies to achieve level 2.



Sales Spikes use creativity to create short-term, temporary growth in sales, market share or profitability for a brand.

To unlock level 3, marketers need to track and measure the short-term performance of sales metrics such as sales value, market share and ROI. Our research uncovered that successful strategies include using ‘Big Tactics’ to achieve large results and building creative sales promotions.



Brand Builders use creativity to improve the fundamental measures of brand health – including awareness, consideration, preference, purchase intent and brand image ownership.

Marketers should track and measure brand health metrics such as brand awareness, brand preference and purchase intent. Tapping into existing brand strengths and championing the consumer to solidify a bond with the brand are successful strategies to unlock level 4.



Commercial Triumphs use creativity to profitably increase sales and market share beyond a single quarter or beyond the duration of the campaign.

This involves more than three months tracking and measuring the performance of sales metrics such as sales value, market share and ROI in order to reach success at this level. We've uncovered evidence that tapping into the power of emotional storytelling, involving the consumer in your idea and using packaging as lead media are ways to create successful work at level 5.



Enduring Icons use creativity to drive brand and sales growth consistently over a long period of 3 years or more. They stick with the same creative strategy or creative work throughout that period, creating sustained commercial outcomes.

For level 6 of the ladder, clients need to have spent 3+ years tracking and measuring the performance of the work in terms of sales and brand metrics such as brand health, market share and ROI. Strategies that lead to success at level 6 include finding a genuinely enduring insight and committing to the long term up front.


Download the Creative Effectiveness toolkit

Download the white paper and a ‘how to’ guide for each level of the Ladder.

Dig into the metrics and case studies that show us best practice at each level. Learn how and why they’ve worked.

Watch James Hurman and Peter Field unveil the Ladder and key findings from our research.

Watch James Hurman discuss in-depth how you can use the Ladder.




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