I am just back from my second trip to the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity in Cannes, France where my personal highlight was an hour-long conversation on the main stage with superstar chef Jamie Oliver, who was a delightful conversation partner. We covered a wide range of topics, from his commitment to improving youth nutrition to his attitude toward innovation (he said that he had failed in nearly half of his ideas but plunged ahead nevertheless).
Edelman had a great showing again this year in the Cannes Lions PR category, with a Gold Lion for the Adobe* Photoshop Halloween Murder Mystery campaign, solidifying Adobe’s role, not just as a tool for creativity, but as the creative brand. We also won three awards for Unilever’s Dove* (two bronze and one silver), plus another silver for Adobe and a bronze for the American Egg Board’s* Eggs and Bacon (that is Kevin Bacon) program.
Here are a few observations on the four days at Cannes:
1.The PR Industry Is Coming On — For the first time, PR firms won the majority of the Lions in the PR category. The Lions won by ad agencies such as the pop-up gun shop in New York City from Grey New York were well deserved. Our work needs to be more “Show” and less reliant on “Tell.” We also need to achieve more tangible business objectives.
2. Short Form Video Works — An eight-second video of a kid jumping into water with a pair of Keds sneakers was beautiful and effective. A researcher on video said that handsome guys and cute dogs are overrated in terms of virality… better to make the brand the hero.
3. The Blurring of Born Digital and Mainstream Media — Snapchat Live, a platform for on the scene reporting by citizen journalists, is now being used by eleven media companies including Conde Nast, Hearst and National Geographic to post “capsules of content.” A stunning statistic from Snapchat: 20 percent of those who attend an NBA game are posting content to Snapchat Live.
4. Entertain Then Inform — The United Nations is launching its Global Goals with an ad on movie screens around the world done by Sir John Hegerty and film maker Richard Curtis, which then allows personal pledges of money or action via a cell phone app. Curtis said, “It cannot be how dire our situation is. It must be how we can do it.”
5. Privacy and Data — WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell said that the holding company is aggregating data from its research companies to assemble a way to compete with Google and Facebook. “As long as the consumer knows what the data is being used for, then it is ok for us to use it. The consumer must get value in return for use of his or her data. Total transparency is necessary.” A senior executive from Intel said that people need to own their data. “If I trust your company, I will share my data. At the moment, it’s too hard to understand what’s happening with my data.”
6. The Best Lincoln Meme — Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever, said that we are moving from marketing to people (broadcast advertising) and with the people (curation) to marketing for the people with ideas that are trusted and transform business.
7. Ephemeral Versus Anonymous — Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said his community offers up its phone numbers so that his company can offer “good targeting.”
8. Video Ads in Middle — Pre-roll ads are irritating and not as effective as placement in the midst of editorial.
9. Much of Best Work for NGOs — A good example is Ogilvy’s work on female genital mutilation, with stitches sewing together national flags from developed nations such as the UK that had been sundered and dotted with blood with the tag line “It Happens Here.” Another is the work for UNICEF by Y&R in Chile on bullying, with young boys with cell phones intimidating a “nerd” who cowers under the sink in the men’s room. To combat violence at soccer games in Brazil, a local NGO hired a bunch of mothers of fans, put them in jerseys with the label Security Moms and had them all over the stadium.
10. Funniest Work — The Hands Off Experience, which advertised free access to a pornographer’s entire library if the online user was able to keep his hands on the keyboard for the entire viewing session. A distant second was the Inactivity Tracker for Joe Boxer pajamas, tracking lack of physical movement.
I have concluded that Cannes is a perfect pair with Davos for Edelman and others in our sector. I come home more convinced than ever that PR firms can compete for the lead creative idea, for community activation and for continuous storytelling. We have to reclassify our work as communications marketing so that we are able to initiate the concepts, not simply magnify advertising creative. Our advantages include speed, innate sense of news and convergence of brand marketing with reputation. When I leaned over to Jackie Cooper, our global creative director, during the outdoor advertising Lions, and muttered, “Wow, we could have done that campaign,” she responded, “Well, then, why don’t we damn well do it and stop talking about it.” Now there is a cactus under my saddle until we return in 2016.
This article originally appeared on Richard Edelman’s 6A.M. Blog.