Cannes Lions: Great Ideas That Cut Through the Clutter

Jury croppedThe votes have been cast, the PR Grand Prix has been awarded and many of the 21 global PR jury members, (including myself) have just left the amazing spectacle that is the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

Following a week of pre-judging in our home countries, and several more days of rigorous discussion whilst in the South of France, the 2016 PR panel awarded the PR Grand Prix to a campaign from Sweden.

Called the ‘The Organic Effect’ (for organic supermarket chain, Coop), it poignantly illustrated the risks of eating non-organic foods, in a simple but strikingly effective and emotive way.

Despite the fact so many entries had aligned their PR messaging to social issues, it was one of the relatively few cause-related campaigns that truly stood out.

The agency behind the entry, Forsman & Bodenfors, produced a highly effective integrated campaign, and some compelling video content, that was ultimately viewed over 35 million times.

More importantly, their efforts resulted in a dramatic increase in the sale of organic foods, and consequently Coop enjoyed its best year in two decades.

At a well-attended press conference the morning after the Grand Prix had been awarded, the first question put to us was: why didn’t the supreme prize go to a PR firm?

In my view, this misses the point of Cannes entirely – and is especially tiresome in light of the rapidly changing communications landscape.

It’s becoming more and more commonplace for advertising agencies to hire PR people (and vice versa), and these, once distinct, branches of communication are continuing to evolve and blur – although innovation, ingenuity, creativity and commercial impact remain paramount.

So, as jurors, we weren’t focused on whether the entries were from PR firms, digital outfits or, indeed, advertising agencies. We were just looking for great ideas that cut through the clutter.

And much like last year, when MSLGROUP won for ‘Like a Girl’, with Leo Burnett, this year’s PR Grand Prix winner saw Stockholm PR firm King credited with making a crucial contribution.

This year the PR category had 2,224 entries – up from 1,969 in 2015 – and of those, a total of 19 Gold Lions, 30 Silver Lions and 34 Bronze Lions were awarded. In terms of geographical representation, the US had 40 nominations, Sweden 18 nominations, and France 17.

There was a truly mind-boggling array of amazing work, all of it creative – which, of course, is what the Festival is designed to celebrate, first and foremost.

Some of my personal favourites included two Asian NGO entries, from WWF and WildAid. The latter was called #JOINTHEHERD and focussed on protecting ivory from illegal poachers. Another strong contender was ‘The House of Clicks’, from PRIME Stockholm and produced for Hemnet, Sweden’s most popular property site. It used big data to crowd source people’s statistical preferences around what they looked for in their ideal home.

PR is a notoriously broad church. And so while the global PR heads I was judging alongside were all well versed in producing creatively-led work to generate the right sort of earned attention, they also represented the connected disciplines of corporate communications, crisis management and stakeholder relations.

This post was first published on the MSLGROUP blog, and can be viewed here.