A note from the PR Lions jury room

6th July 2017

Serving as a PR Lions Jury member rightly comes with responsibilities. The welcome letter challenges you to “identify the new beacons of creativity that will inspire the industry, set the benchmark for excellence and, ultimately, shape the future of communications”.

Those of us on the PR Lions jury at the 64th Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity reviewed more than 2,000 cases that the best and brightest in our industry have put their heart and soul into.

We discovered brave campaigns, novel points of view, were challenged on cultural assumptions, laughed no matter how many times we saw some cases, and got goose bumps when seeing how high and low tech can influence outcomes for businesses and people.

So here are my top six themes of the winning work I saw as a PR Lions juror at Cannes this year:

1) The unstable political and business context inspired many campaigns. As a jury, we were positively dispositioned to those campaigns that really went to the heart of the matter, bringing disenfranchised rural citizens and urban elites together. I hope as an industry we can focus even more on bringing solutions to the root cause vs just focusing on the symptoms. The award-winning work came from (European) brands and commercial companies who understand that purpose-driven campaigns are a growth accelerator for business.

2) A notable proportion of the most innovative winning work, including Titanium Grand Prix winner Fearless Girl from our sister IPG agency McCann New York, came from B2B companies, from coatings companies and to mutual fund owners. So let’s continue to challenge our B2B clients and show them winning with creative work at Cannes is absolutely doable.

3) There were some really smart, creative applications of the newest technology, including translating business mood into music, creating algorithms around hunger, use of alternative currencies such as personal energy to pay for coffee, using Facebook Likes to help people in India to qualify for loans, or rating vehicles in the Middle East by “camel power” rather than horse power.

4) “The medium is the message” is not dead. From using Lego bricks to teach braille in Brazil, to putting the faces of missing children rather than royalty on coins in Europe, to addressing parental and academic pressure on teens using messages on a soft drink bottle, innovative products were used as both medium and message in a number of winning campaigns.

5) Some of the very best ideas had a simple, human idea at their heart, from a Polish campaign where leaner drivers had to spend half an hour on a driving ramp overcoming simple obstacles in a wheelchair as part of their driving test, to Japanese children learning to code based on the shape of typical Japanese snacks.

6) Visuals matter. We saw some extraordinarily powerful images this year, from gun sale legislation encapsulated in the image of a teddy bear, the representation of women on management boards gaining higher yields through the now-iconic image of the Fearless Girl statue opposite the Wall Street bull, and the altered shape of a human body that could survive road accidents.

And if you’re looking to enter work for Cannes next year, here are my top four tips based on my judging experience:

1) Don’t assume knowledge of cultural context. Your entry will have to explain certain concepts, celebrities and events to an audience of 21 different nationalities who have different cultural and business references. Some of the most impactful discussion in the jury room evolved around cultural themes.

2) In this post truth world, the jury was careful not to award campaigns that would trick people in believing false content. Sure, the “reveal” moment is part of the most ancient storytelling, but handle with care.

3) Be careful how you define a “problem” that your work sought to solve. Jurors see hard-hitting cases from around the world that deal with subjects from child abuse to acid attacks. This makes framing cases from Western Europe that could in comparison be seen as “first-world problems” a bit more challenging. Many Nordic cases handled this by starting with a variation on “everything is great, but we have one small problem…”

4) There is an art to category selection. Some campaigns were brilliant, but were simply entered in the wrong category and hence not awarded. And we cannot change the category entered as part of the jury process. So dive into the definitions and descriptions. It will be worth it.


Image: Getty Images at Cannes Lions