CANNES LIONS: CHOOSING A WINNER AT THE GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS AWARDS

Kevin Craig

As soon as I finish writing this I am running up to the top floor of the Palais des Festivals to start the third full day of judging as a Member of the Cannes Lions PR Jury.

The Cannes Lions are the only truly global communications awards and this year the PR categories received 1,294 entries from across the world.  At this point my fellow jurors and I have already judged hundreds and hundreds of entries.  Most comprise of a two minute film accompanied by varying degrees of supporting information.  Here are some highly subjective observations as we approach the half way point.

The Jury is made up of some very inspiring, talented and articulate people. More on them later today. Also “what is PR?” V “What is advertising?” More on that later today too.

Every single entry receives detailed scrutiny.  Even before we had arrived in Cannes every Jury Member had personally reviewed hundreds of entries. If you enter work into the Cannes Lions you can rest assured that it is given detailed consideration – several times if your work lasts until the later stages.

Some good PR is very expensive and is made easier if the client is a global brand or global institution. Good PR can be expensive and involve huge investment but equally often it does not.  There is no rule. PR Jury Members are flexible and examine each case on its merits.

There is a huge issue of overlap between categories. What is a good consumer PR campaign?  What is a good public affairs campaign?  If it involves Twitter, Facebook, Instagram is it eligible for social media categories? What does a digital PR winner look like versus a social media winner?  Is a stunt enough to win an award? Probably yes in the technique category and some are indeed brilliant.  Are some entries entered into the wrong categories? Yes.

Does AVE matter? Jury Members are divided on this. The so far calm and effective PR Jury President David T Bone Gallagher has views. Other Jury members have different views. I predict heated debate in the final stages.  Many think it matters but few think in itself it is enough.

Do some entries let themselves down because they tell their story badly – oh yes!

Are they some breathtaking ideas and insights already in evidence that have had huge impact on the PR Jury? Yes.

Are some countries shaping up to perform more strongly than others this year? I think so.

Can PR – in all its forms – consumer, public affairs, social media, crisis, stunts, and the myriad of other categories be a meaningful force for good? Yes! Can it sometimes be something that makes one product sell better than another? Yes – and that is something of huge importance in a world where growth drives jobs and changes lives.

Do some entries pay homage, whether subtly or not to winners from previous years.  Yes.

Are results important? Mon dieu – yes they are. The rigour of the judging process has already truly impressed me. In every single entry judged to date I have been part of a judging process ruthlessly hunting insight, creativity, originality and a huge deep focus on the results criteria.  Did attitudes change? Was awareness achieved? Did laws change? Did sales rise? Was media coverage achieved? How much? How widely? Did attitudes change? Was funding awarded? Did behaviours change? Very simply did the work achieve what it set out to achieve? And in some cases – were lives saved. Yes. Were huge percentages of a country’s population reached, moved to tears? Yes.

Is there going to be more of the same old debate about ad agencies trying to do PR? God knows, probably, but I tell you this, good work will win through. Many campaigns are very integrated. So what if the PR leverages paid content? Some paid still needs very effective and creative execution.  The many senior PR people that I have been privileged to spend two very good days with look like they will not give PR awards to work that is purely advertising – in fact there is evidence of a clear high level of awareness of when a purely advertising campaign has found its way into our PR categories but equally nor will Jury Members fail to reward work that is integrated, where the boundaries are blurred. In 2013, as much as ever, whatever brand of communications you work in, it surely must be more difficult than ever to try to say that your brand of communications exists in its own bubble. Very rarely is the world like that. Oh – and as a PR person-  I also happen to think that we don’t have a monopoly on good PR ideas.

So – much to think about. One thing I already know is that I want to encourage many more PR and Lobbying companies in my own country to join those UK companies who enter Cannes – its immensely rigorous, truly global and truly integrated communications at its best. With PLMR having won big in 2011 I will go back to the UK fired up to try again in future years having seen it from the inside.

Kevin and the whole Cannes Lions Jury enjoying well deserved break in the sun!

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