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Cannes or Cannt

We live in an always-on world where you want your information NOW! not weeks later, where immediacy is the only currency and where information is only relevant if shared in the exact nanosecond it happened.

Despite these facts, here is an article about the Cannes Lions and PR which is at least two weeks after everyone has not only returned home, but has picked up their dry-cleaning too. Self-combustion is a very real threat.

Last week the PRCA Creative Group hosted a session with three of the best Creative Directors in British PR – Rae Stones from Edelman, Lotte Jones from Blue Rubicon and Kat Thomas from One Green Bean.

We called it Cannes or Cannt and set about trying to work out what we could learn, what the awards said about the state of creativity in PR and whether some of the initial comments (“I can’t believe only four PR agencies won anything, it’s a disgrace”) were justified, or not.

Rather than giving a summary of campaign likes and dislikes which were broadly in line with other things you’ll already have read (Samsung Braille, House of Clicks, REI Stores Black Friday, Coop, Don’t Drink & Dive etc all good), here are ten other considerations which emerged…

1. Winning not whining

The criticism among some PRs about not winning more Lions est ne cool pas.

Winning Lions helps agencies be taken seriously creatively by clients who put far greater store by these awards than most (all?) others. This doesn’t mean there isn’t value in your crisis comms award win, it’s just awarding something different.

They also attract talent… Rae is from a non-PR background and anyone who has met her and thinks we shouldn’t be attracting more people like her is crazy. Creative talent like winning awards, they like the ego stroke, and they want to work at agencies which get this.

If winning a Lion helps you attract talent & clients – why the hell wouldn’t you want one?

2. Bigger balls

The ad industry sometimes does not play fair, they can sometimes be so ballsy that not all campaigns are actual campaigns. We can choose to moan, and not win. Or we can ignore the rules too occasionally, and take more of our share.

3. Gender + originality

In UK PR we have approximately ten times as many male creative directors as female.

This is absurd.

The days of thinking women can/should only creatively lead on Canesten, Lilets or Tampax are surely behind us. As Rae said “I’ve been a 50 year old man, I’ve had cancer, I’ve been an extreme gamer and a hundred other things I don’t do – genitals aren’t the import thing when it comes to original thinking, empathy is.”

We need more specialist female creatives trained, developed, encouraged and appointed.

4. Creativity pays

The best work, the absolute best work, isn’t just nice. It doesn’t just raise awareness, or change attitudes or behaviours. It creates income streams, it adds to blood banks, it saves lives.

5. The anonymity factor

Judges don’t know if work is from an ad agency or a PR agency or any other flavour of agency. Everything is blind. But you can tell from the quality of the entry how serious the agency is about winning… this is not an entry to be handed to your intern.

6. Go, go, go

Because there is a huge piss-up to be had.

But also because, there is more of the global industry’s best work and minds in one small place for one short time than you will ever find anywhere else. If you’re serious about doing work which is original and brilliant, why wouldn’t you go?

7. In theory, PR agencies should have an advantage

In ad-land you are told what the answer is – a 30 sec TVC, a print ad, a series of posters, and they need to pay to get in to the party. In PR, we get invited in because of what we bring, and our answer could literally be anything. But please let’s never ever ever make it a suncream-shitting seagull. And enough with the Gladiator sound-track.

8. We’ve all always said PR isn’t rocket-science

So why think the ad agencies can’t do it too? They’ve caught up… they can do stuff which makes news too, which creates ongoing conversations too. Get over it.

9. Categories are for judges, not agencies

PR agencies do not only have to enter the PR category. Which seems such obvious advice, and yet almost totally ignored.

10. Pat & slap

Kat described the pat and a slap as a result of winning… “a pat on the back from the Client who won, and a bit of a slap from some other clients saying “where’s mine?’”. This is not a good enough reason to not go for it.

Thanks to all who showed up, to the kind people at PRCA for organizing, Fenella Grey and her team at Porter Novelli for hosting us and to Rae, Lotte and Kat for their ace and magicness.