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How an Agency Should Evaluating a Cause Marketing Campaign

How should an agency evaluate a cause campaign it had a hand in?

This question comes on the heels of posts the last two Fridays about how to evaluate a cause marketing campaign if you represent the cause and how to do so if you represent the sponsor.

While there’s plenty in both posts that’s pertinent, agencies still have their own unique gloss on evaluating the success of a campaign.
  • Agencies frequently care about things like whether a campaign helps them ad another trophy to the case or brings the respect of peers and the trade press.
  • Agencies care about achieving higher creative standards.
  • And it goes without saying that agencies care about whether the work they do for the campaign meets internal benchmarks for profitability.
But in my view what should matter most for agencies is the degree to which they are aligned with the nonprofit’s goals and objectives. Agencies must evaluate the success of a cause marketing campaign based on whether it achieved the nonprofit’s and the sponsor’s definitions of success.

Sometimes this means setting aside biases (both personal and institutional). For instance, in my home State of Utah the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety ran a public safety campaign called Zero Fatalities. The tagline was: “it’s a goal we can all live with.”

The agency had an institutional bias for wordplay, but does a campaign like this really call for puns? I don’t know who the agency for this campaign is, but in my view they sold the State a bill of goods.

In cause marketing campaigns, the job of the agency isn’t to be clever for the sake of being clever. The agency's job is to help create a campaign that works, that is a campaign that sells.

Dan Pallotta makes an interesting point in a recent post in the Harvard Business Review blogs. Businesses sometimes scorn nonprofits as being inherently not self-sustainable, he writes. But, “if reliance on the wealth of others makes a business not self-sustaining, then no business is self-sustaining. The music industry, for example, is not self-sustaining, because it relies on the wealth of consumers, who use their money to buy albums,” says Pallotta.

What can help make nonprofits self-sustainable? Here's how Pallotta answers:
“Most people want to help others. Their lives would feel incomplete without this connection to humanity. We can tap into this human desire by marketing compassion with the same rigor as we market luxury cars.”
That’s the ultimate assessment for an agency. Did they bring value that made the campaign more effective? Or did they bring creative that won cheers from their peers and yawns from the nonprofit's constituency?

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