MONDAY 25 JUN 2018 4:37 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 covered branding, communications and advertising in a style unique to the iconic French coastline. Communicate magazine, with the ICCO, worked to bring readers daily updates about the public relations representation at the 65th festival of creativity.

Beach parties, partnership announcements, brand collaborations and obscene quantities of rose - the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity 2018 had it all. For the public relations profession, it offered a chance to demonstrate its worth against the sometimes monolithic advertising industry; for brands, the festival provided a platform on which a true purpose could be demonstrated.

Friday morning at the House of PR saw a committed group of communications professionals gather for the ICCO’s final event at this year’s Cannes Lions. A tradition now in its third year, the cabana welcomed CEOs prestigious to the public relations industry, including Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, Geil Heimann, president at Weber Shandwick and Barri Rafferty, CEO of Ketchum, to discuss the previous night’s results over breakfast hosted by the Holmes Report. The sun shone down as the night’s winners and runners-up were contemplated.

Rounding off a week of activity which has seen the House of PR accommodate all manner of guest and talks, the debrief offered a moment of humility for an industry often accused of governing in its own self-interest. Yet, says Matt Cartmell, deputy director general of the PRCA, the week was in some ways a disappointment in terms of truly showcasing the industry’s life-changing potential.

“Excuse the awkward World Cup metaphor, but Cannes Lions 2018 has been a game of two halves for PR and communications,” says Cartmell. “On the one hand we saw a huge amount of thought-provoking content at the House of PR which suggested that PR has never been in better shape. On the other, it was a disappointing year for us in the PR Lions category, partly due to the fact that we are still not seeing the PR agency world competing in big numbers.”

So, with the PR Lions announced on Thursday evening, the end of the week also offered ample opportunity to reflect on how far - or otherwise - public relations has come in being recognised as a strategic function among its flashier advertising counterparts. For some, there was frustration. PRCA director and ICCO chairman, Francis Ingham, lamented the decision to not run a bronze award for the Young Lions PR event, calling it “deeply insulting to [the] 30+ countries [that entered.]” For others, however, the penultimate night was a cause for joy - AMVBBDO and Plastic Oceans/LADBible in particular, whose Trash Isles campaign became one of the most discussed of the week.

Taking home the PR Lions ‘Grand prix,’ the campaign focused on drawing attention to the amount of plastic waste left in the world’s oceans. The collaboration was clearly effective, despite the winning entry not crediting a public relations agency, the collaboration was nonetheless - in fact, this was a fact true to nine of the 12 ‘gold’ winners in the PR Lions event.

Stuart Smith, jury head for the PR Lions 2018, says this year the focus was on attracting entries designed for an ‘earned first world’ and those that ‘cut through the noise’ of what can appear a sometimes overpowering industry presence. The entries were welcome from any type of organisation, said Smith - a statement truly reflective of the industry’s diversity and willingness to accept all manner of clients.

Another of note was Toyota’s ‘Start Your Impossible’ campaign, praised by Brittany Golob, editor of Communicate magazine, as being particularly strong. Designed to shift people’s perceptions of Toyota as merely a car manufacturer to a mobility provider, the campaign was recognised in its deliberation over economic, social and environmental issues. By expanding from its niche and securing coverage on platforms as influential as the Superbowl, Toyota reached 40 countries and 28 languages - its provision of metrics, for example over 50% of consumers seeing Toyota as a mobility provider, is a blueprint for what wider public relations industry campaigns could achieve.

“This year's PR Lions gold winners were a strong group,” says Brittany Golob, editor of Communicate magazine. “Showcasing excellence in crisis management, reputation development and issues management, I was impressed by what the winners had achieved. Over the past few years, the PR Lions have showcased increasingly more effective, unique and creative public relations campaigns.

“It's nice to see the value PR can add to a business and have that impact recognised on as big a scale as the Cannes Lions festival.”

Published in association with the ICCO

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