Thought Leadership

Cannes Recap: PR Makes Strides But Ad Firms Still Take the Spotlight

Editor’s note: Former Hill & Knowlton U.S. Chairman MaryLee Sachs reports from the 2011 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. She previously wrote for PRSAY about the changing role of chief communications officers (CCOs) in an increasingly integrated marketing environment.

The 2011 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

It was a jam-packed week at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and I’ve taken in as much as humanly possible, picking and choosing the most interesting speakers and topics to me. The best way to provide a round-up is to impart one key factoid, quote or provocation from each of the presentations I really enjoyed:

  • British newspaper The Guardian sponsored a seminar with Dr. Edward de Bono, famous for his “six hats of creative thinking,” and he introduced a new word – ebne – which means “excellent but not enough.” I’m sure we can all think of times to use that one.
  • Publicis and Contagious introduced the concept of “the 5% club,” suggesting that we put a percentage of our budget, profit or whatever into taking our thinking beyond the traditional confines, explaining that putting a specific number on it, makes it harder to ignore.
  • The obsession with being first makes it harder to profit from the idea according to Malcolm Gladwell, who was brought to Cannes by Kraft Foods. Better to be a “tweaker” and add value to the original idea, or an “implementor” where a larger go-to-market scope is executed.
  • And yet UK-based marketing firm and publisher Contagious advocated to be first: “Sieze the first movement advantage – if you don’t, someone else will.”
  • What makes a good story? According to Robert Redford, who was brought to Cannes by Yahoo!, it’s “sex.” OK then …

This was my third year at Cannes, having served on the inaugural PR jury in 2009, and each time I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Saatchi & Saatchi’s New Directors Showcase. It is about as far away from PR as it can get, but it’s highly entertaining to see the excellent videos and films from new people.

My favorite this year was called “Dogboarding” by The Daniels, featuring dogs as skateboards and smaller ones as rollerblades. Hysterical; but importantly, no animals were harmed in the filming.

The 2011 PR Cannes Lions were among the first to be awarded earlier in the week and showcased some great work. It continues to be a disappointment that so many of the awards went to non-PR agencies. Of the 11 Gold Lions, only one was awarded to a PR consultancy, Prime PR in Stockholm, Sweden, for its Electrolux Green Range of Vacuum Cleaners campaign (my personal favorite). The Grand Prix went to Clemenger BBDO Melbourne for its Break Up campaign for National Australia Bank. Six awards in the Silver and Bronze categories went to PR firms; but out of a total of 28 Silver and Bronze Lions, it’s still an underwhelming representation.

Fingers crossed for a better year for PR firms in 2012. The client community is taking more notice (Clients accounted for 20 percent of delegates this year.), so it’s becoming increasingly important!

And with so many clients at Cannes, it was a great venue to launch my book, “The Changing MO of the CMO,” in a workshop I shared with retired Unilever CMO Simon Clift, retired Diageo CMO and Wharton professor Rob Malcolm, and Marc de Swaan Arons of EffectiveBrands.

MaryLee Sachs was most recently U.S. chair and worldwide director of consumer marketing at Hill & Knowlton. She is the author of “The Changing MO of the CMO: How the Convergence of Brand and Reputation is Affecting Marketers.”


Leave a Comment