Attending the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this week for the first time (after PLMR won two Gold Lions last year for our public affairs and media relations work), ten things have struck me.

1) The quality of the entries – Last night’s awards ceremony was not only a showcase for great ideas, but the production values of the videos submitted by the entrants were comparable to TV ads, which takes time and money.

2) The overlapping of distinctions between different comms disciplines – I saw some great campaigns last night, but when watching some of the winning videos it was interesting how some didn’t necessarily correspond to the main disciplines evident in their execution – for example, some winning PR entries actually deployed classic public affairs techniques, whilst other PR winners had utilised the momentum of a major ad campaign.

3) Social media has never been more important – Winning entries demonstrated how many views they’d had on YouTube, how many mentions and followers on Twitter they generated, and how many people liked their campaigns or products on Facebook. In an age where AVE appears discredited, being able to demonstrate how many individuals you have touched via social media is crucial.

4) Fantastic creativity – That’s what the Cannes Lions is all about – and whilst PR, advertising and public affairs agencies must of course deliver for their clients (that is their raison d’être), it is quite right to celebrate and nurture creativity (not least as that is what will ultimately deliver the most game changing results for clients).

5) The power of creativity to change the world for the better – Separate to appreciating creativity as a good thing in and of itself, and separate to delivering on the immediate objectives set by a client or an in-house team, the cross-fertilisation of ideas can make a real difference to peoples’ lives thousands of miles away, in fields of endeavour radically different to one’s own. One of the most inspiring presentations was by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who are encouraging the world’s best creatives to devise new ways of maxmising aid delivery. Yes, of course money is important otherwise the best ideas will never make it off the page, but imagine the impact that aid programmes could have if they involved and deployed the market research, road testing, innovation and responsiveness of the world’s biggest brand campaigns.

6) Lack of UK agencies shortlisted – I was having flashbacks to Eurovision at one stage, as none of the major UK agencies were dominating the field. Will the UK be back with a vengance next year?

7) Evidencing results – Even the most creative winners still had an impact on the bottom-line – highlights for me include a great direct campaign which used the shadow of blocks protruding from a wall above a shop to create a QR code that was only visible at a certain time of day – the time every day at which sales typically dropped. The idea brought an increased footfall to the store, and with the QR code enabling customers claim money off certain items, it led the all-important increase in sales, which was of course the brief in the first place.

8) The global ownership of advertising versus public affairs – By and large, many of the ad agency names you see at Cannes are part of global groups, but it’s interesting to compare that to the public affairs landscape – lots more boutique agencies, that may well partner with sister agencies around the world, but aren’t part of a larger ownership structure. As barriers between different comms disciplines breakdown, might we see consolidation in the public affairs industry? Or will clients prefer more bespoke, localised support?

9) The power of stunts – Social media provides the tools; stunts can still provide the story. A campaign in Tunisia encouraging people to vote following the collapse of dictatorship was one of the most impressive – a giant poster of the deposed dictator was plastered on to a building, which when torn down by outraged passers-by revealed the slogan “dictators can return”, together with information on how to vote. And we must all have seen the excellent TNT “we know drama” stunt in Belgium, which won a Gold Lion this year.

10) Brand partnerships – Just as an effective public affairs campaign can often maximise its impact through a coalition of like-minded groups coming together, many of this year’s best entries were a partnership between brands – look up the Lego and Star Wars tie up to see what I mean.

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PLMR’s crisis communications experience is second to none, and includes pre-emptive and reactive work across traditional and social media channels. We work with a range of organisations to offer critical communication support when they are faced with difficult and challenging scenarios.