In 2009, when the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival inaugurated the PR Lions award, the public relations industry transformed overnight from a party crasher to an invited guest at one of marketing’s biggest celebrations. Two years later, when the Festival changed its name to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the implication was clear: Great creative work transcends traditional boundaries.
And yet last year, the PR industry was filled with self-reflection as ad agencies once again dominated the Lions’ PR category. Now, just days before this year’s awards, we run the risk of once again leaving the table dissatisfied despite our progress. What will this say about our future at Cannes?
Before we despair, let’s take a step back. While we hope the discipline will gain ground in our own category, the awards are only one (major) piece of the big picture. If we look more closely, we’ll see that PR is deeply embedded in the Festival’s DNA, and that won’t be changing anytime soon.
Though the advertising industry got the party started, people attend Cannes Lions ‘for the PR.’ The qualities that make the Festival such an attractive and influential event are the very things that typify the best of PR and what we do for our clients every day. Thought leaders present their insights and opinions at seminars and workshops; audiences come together for passionate conversation about shared interests; brand-building occurs at a grass-roots level, directly with influencers and advocates; and people create and sustain valuable personal relationships. With all of these opportunities for storytelling, buzz-building and influencing the influencers, you could say the entire Festival is its own best argument for earned attention.
PR has been at Cannes all along – it just took a while for the agencies to catch up. And now that we have arrived, it’s time to move forward with the urgency required by our leaders and the changing marketplace, tempered by the perspective provided by decades of experience. It’s time to stop apologizing that we were late to the party. Instead, let’s acknowledge that we’re in the fray, and continue to push and be pushed by our sister disciplines. It’s time to pull our seats up to the table and enjoy the feast. PR helped cook it, after all.
Over the next week we will bring you Ketchum’s point of view from Cannes in words and images, and sharing content via our special Cannes*ectivity newsletter. If you’d like to receive the content directly to your Inbox, simply complete the form below.
This blog is just one of many ways Ketchum is participating in the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this year. Our CEO for Europe, David Gallagher, was selected to serve as the president of this year’s PR Lions jury, an incredible honor within the global PR industry. Additionally, for the third year in a row, we’re sponsoring the festival’s Young Marketers Competition, and we’ll be co-sponsoring an event with the Holmes Report entitled “Creativity in the Conversation Economy”, led by Ketchum CEO Rob Flaherty.