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PR at Cannes

— Chris Talago 

Cannes Lions feels like it’s at an inflection point. The heart is still focusing on creativity and ‘the big idea’, but increasing the brain is devoting more time, more real-estate to technology, the application of data and real-time personalized content driven by CMS.  One question, only half-flippantly asked, was ‘how long do you think it will be before all our agencies become algorithms?’

For me, there will always be a place for creativity. Yes, better use of data will guide us and make us more targeted, yes, #commstech will deliver efficiencies, faster speed of response, scale campaigns and make them more personal, but it’s the idea that remains at the heart of why audiences engage.  Likewise, it’s ‘The Work’ that remains the most impressive part about Cannes Lions. Yes, the Festival is a bit ‘up itself’, yes, many of the activities and speakers seem more set on self-aggrandisement, and yes, Cannes itself seems genetically programmed to separate Festival goers from their (company’s?) money – BUT, the campaigns are genuinely inspiring. For the record, WE came away with two Cannes Lions for our work with Grey Advertising on behalf of Volvo.

Added to this, for the PR and Comms companies at least, there’s a very different, more positive feel, about competitive agency interaction at Cannes.  The view was repeated to me several times, by different agency leads that there, we are on the same side, waving the PR/comms banner and pushing a wider industry agenda. I attended two agency briefings at which there was a very open and productive dialogue… the nature of competition means we can’t have such transparency all-year ‘round, but it’s good for us as an industry to get together every now and again to bat on the same team. if only we could harness that collaboration for the other 51 weeks!

The PR/Comms community finally seems to be growing in to its own skin at Cannes too.  While I’m not certain I subscribe to the view that 2015 was a breakthrough year for PR, the momentum is definitely building and MSL/Leo Burnett’s Like A Girl campaign drove a lot more discussion about our key role in the mix.  Fully 50% of award entries include PR companies – up 10% from last year. PR/Comms agencies are learning that they can successfully compete in many areas as well as PR. Maybe we’re the slightly gangly teenager that’s just beginning to grow in confidence, realizing that we have something to offer that other disciplines can’t. Maybe we’re finally growing-up?

So what now?

Cannes reminded us that award winning work should, in part, illustrate where comms is heading.  I encourage you to review the winners.  It’s clear to me that the future is integrated, measurable, built on a foundation of creativity and technology, as well as being channel agnostic.

This has huge implications for the way brands structure teams, plan and execute campaigns.  For agencies, the way we support clients on the journey and how we fit within the agency landscape is likely to change markedly. Big brands like Salesforce, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Snapchat all attended the show and clearly see the tightening relations between CIO and CMO.  It’s clear that in the era of increasingly personalized real-time communications the idea of ‘one idea, one campaign’ may have a limited shelf-life.  Again this plays more to the PR heritage, we’re used to moving faster, responding to events and micro-targeting of audiences.

Integrated is here with a vengeance.  For any entry to be taken seriously it needed to demonstrate cross-channel results and inter-agency collaboration.  Even promoting the speaker slots utilized integrated techniques e.g. one agency had a speaker slot supported by posters and flyers with a QR code that took you to a game/competition to take a photo as well as outdoor and social support

Cannes Lions is a microcosm of our industry, it’s an invaluable training and education week, allowing us to benchmark ourselves against where the industry is moving. It’s inspiration to go back to our new business and OG targets with fresh ideas – but more importantly to be part of a wider industry narrative.  It sounds trite, but it is an incredibly exciting time to be in communications and Cannes has a role to play in heightening our consciousness about what ‘good’ looks like today.