I returned from my first experience at Cannes Lions last week inspired (and a little jaded) with three overwhelming observations:
1 – The lack of diversity (amongst attendees)
2 – The lack of independent PR agencies
3 - The lack of PR agencies picking up awards
Diversity was certainly one of the hot topics at Cannes this year with a strong consensus across the board that creativity cannot flourish without diversity. Whilst efforts had been made in terms of the speakers and entertainment (India’s first transgender pop group The Brooke Bond Red Label 6 Pack Band opened one of Monday’s award sessions), you only had to take one look at the audience to see that there is some way to go.
Whilst Cannes is certainly inspiring, it is not cheap. For the thousands of dollars spent on yachts, hotels and media stunts, it’s not surprising that the event is ruled by the big ad firms. Now with some of the big agencies already threatening to pull back due to the cost of attending, it poses the question, what about smaller PR firms and independents?
Circling back to the theme of diversity and the event’s raison d’être “to cultivate creativity”, the cost of entering, attending and entertaining is certainly a deterrent for small to mid-sized PR firms and creative companies.
This year, just seven out of the 100 PR winners had a PR agency listed as a key creative. Whilst the PR industry, spearheaded by the PRCA and ICCO, has been lobbying for more recognition at the Cannes Lions, this demonstrates a less than level playing field.
Peter Mountstevens, managing partner at Taylor Herring speaking in PR Week suggested two judging innovations to be added to the mix “to even out the process and give the PR firms a fairer crack of the whip”:
- Band campaigns of similar budgets,
- Stipulate a requirement to declare media spend
As a specialist travel and tourism PR firm working with tight margins, these suggested innovations are music to our ears. A creative PR campaign with a limited media spend should not be viewed next to a big budget marketing campaign.
Therefore in an attempt to increase diversity, attract small to mid-sized agencies and see more PR firms recognised for their work, we pledge our support for Peter’s innovations and we would urge our fellow independents to do the same.
2017 has witnessed another year where the majority of Lions PR honours have been pegged to marketing/advertising entries brandishing AVE figures that would make a PRWeek Awards judge weep. Two simple innovations would help to level the playing field and give PR a fair crack of the Lion’s whip. The first would be to band the campaigns of similar budgets, and the second would be a requirement to declare media spend. Both measures would help judges differentiate between marketing campaigns and work rooted in the practise of PR. Until we see the judging criteria evolve, PR agencies will continue to be viewed as an adjunct the advertising industry, a view which is reinforced by the new 2017 rules, which now award PR Lions by ‘association’.