WEDNESDAY 20 JUN 2018 7:52 PM


This year’s Cannes Lions opened with high of 30 degrees, and the sense of expectation creeping over the beach front’s historic promenade. Bigger than ever, the annual festival of creativity is set to cover branding, communications and advertising in a style unique to the iconic French coastline. Communicate magazine, with the ICCO, is working to bring readers daily updates about the public relations representation at the 65th festival of creativity.

Midway through a week defined by talks, events, beach parties and the ubiquitous Cannes Lions rose wine, the House of PR enjoyed its busiest day yet. Opening at 10.30am, ‘Why brands should be entertainers’ hosted speakers from content creation company Somethin’ Else, ITV and the Brit Awards and focused on how brands are continuing to mature their offering in relation to customer needs. In an age where all manner of mediums are vying for attention from an audience bombarded with choice, to achieve cut-through brands must examine their brand promise and expand it to encompass entertainment value.

The following session saw Arun Sudhaman of the Holmes Report interview Alan VanderMolen, international president of WE Communications and legendary public relations figure. The talk, recorded as podcast and available via ICCO, emphasise the need for innovation across the industry – according to VanderMolden, this means going beyond a simple restructuring. “Consolidation is not innovation,” says VanderMolen; for public relations to compete with the advertising industry, for example through film campaigns, it must be willing to adapt to changing demands.

“We need to evolve into the value of branded content,” says VanderMolen, “and begin to understand how branded content functions across the whole ecosystem.” In terms of scale, he explains, it’s the middle agencies that are coming through to compete due a willingness to innovate. While public relations retains its commitment to culture, the industry is increasingly capable of using paid content to achieve results and provide more effective metrics.

Indeed, perhaps Wednesday can be billed as the day in which leading industry names implored their audience to take a fresh approach to creativity and recognise that what worked ten years ago might not fit a modern audience. And this goes not just for agency output – but inpute, too. According to midday session ‘Chief creatives on the beach,’ hosted on the picturesque Cannes Lions beach, encouraging a new generation of talent into chief creative officer positions while fostering an agency culture based on collaboration is key to ensuring the industry does not become stale.

This means a workforce based on mutual respect, says Phil Koutsis, executive creative director of experiential brand agency We’re Magnetic – and a workforce not restricted through siloes. “When data ignites a truth that goes to the core of cultural insight, a truth you can’t refute, that’s when creatives can take hold of it and do magic with it.”

If future-facing agencies and subsequent brands was the theme that defined Wednesday, then, a fitting end to the House of PR’s schedule came in the form of a panel. ‘I like to watch! New generation visual stimulation’ with Fleishmanhillard and Verbal, recording artist and fashion designer of Love.Dream.Happiness. Audiences demand new experiences, said the panel, which means developing visual mediums that appeal to their sense of identity. Whether this is through a charitable campaign to encourage compassion and donation for Syrian child refugees, to highlight a collaboration with AT&T or to change the image of the much-maligned Croc shoe, modern public relations requires a new approach to visual stimulation and a connection with the corresponding campaign.

This, crucially, is the crux of public relations - “Nothing can stop the power of good old fashioned PR,” says Kev O’Sullivan, creative director at Fleishmanhillard. And, given the passion with which today’s speakers have espoused the industry’s continual desire to innovate and develop, O’Sullivan might just be right.

Published in association with the ICCO

For more from Communicate magazine, follow us on Twitter @Communicatemag