Returning from Cannes with a bump Friday – hailstones and a two hour jam on the M25 – I thought on the week me and many PR colleagues had just experienced. Leaving aside chatting movies and storytelling with the great Sir Alan Parker, touching cultural history in an audience with Lou Reed, dancing to P Diddy and hanging out drinking on the beach (a lot), it was a great learning week for our industry and a showcase for some fantastic creative and impactful PR campaigns.
Yes, once again an ad agency won the top PR campaign prize – McCann Melbourne and their terrific “Dumb Ways to Die” public safety campaign (listen to the song and I defy you not to have it worm it’s way into your brain) – but so what? Five years in and the PR agency world is still learning, not just from great campaign ideas but how to package our own to compete for a Lions.
On Monday night I was proud to take the stage to accept our second Gold Lion on behalf of my London PA team, and hear my London Consumer team win a Bronze. Proud that WS is one of the most Cannes Lions winning London PR agencies.
Does it matter? Yes it does.
Yet the PR world remains divided between those who want to moan about, and those who want to celebrate, Cannes. I am in the latter camp, have been from the get go, and not just because of our multiple award wins.
Not only does Cannes bring together ten thousand or more creative, smart, strategic and often brilliant people in an almost unique whirlpool of ideas, insights and often dodgy shorts and flip flops. It is a great challenge and opportunity to show our relevance and SWAT in the Engagement Era.
We have to increasingly concentrate on original ideas and creating engaging content, as well as having the smarts to know how to get that content to the right people. Competing with other disciplines who have been at the Cannes party for up to sixty years helps us focus as well as learn.
PR has been at Cannes for just five of those sixty years, and some would argue that collectively we still have not made the breakthrough in terms of Lions winning work. But five years is the equivalent of starting primary school compared to the ad world qualifying for a free bus pass. Give it time and enjoy the learning experience.
Creativity as well as dialogue and engagement are what we practice. The ad agencies who we regard jealously are increasing looking in our direction and at our territory. We are the original storytellers, but we don’t always tell our own story well, either in terms of Lions winning two minute compelling and emotionally engaging videos, or managing our reputation.
The Cannes Lions experience can help us shape our approach to strategic planning and insights, push us to bolder campaigns and ideas that capture imaginations and deliver real impact.
For that alone let’s celebrate being increasingly central to Cannes as well as being the new kids on La Croisette.