Cannes Festival: The Pulse on Global Societal Trends

Guest blog post by Renee Wilson, Chief Client Officer, MSLGROUP & President of the PR Lions Jury 2014

As most PR professionals, I like to connect the dots between things, and understand why developments emerge as they do. Trends are fascinating — global ones in particular. Through the Internet and social media, they engage communities far and wide and help make our great big world feel smaller.

As the past PR jury president, I had a ringside seat to see the emergence of some powerful global trends from among the approximately 1,900 entries submitted to the PR category this year. If I saw at least four or five entries around a similar topic from different parts of the world, I made note of it as a global area of interest, dependent, of course, on the number of entries in a particular area. If you go onto the Cannes Lions website, you can look up the entries that I reference below.

One could argue that these trends are all causes/societal issues and that may be true in some cases.   What is a beautiful demonstration of PR, was when products and companies authentically gave the cause/societal issue a voice and became part of the solution.

Here’s a glimpse into some of the trend areas that I observed percolating to the top.
Gender equality  There were a good number of entries representing the need for greater equality around the world between men and women. The entries ranged from salary/workplace inequality to societal inequality.   Program examples to look for that hit on this trend included: “Be A Man” by Voluntaire for Kommunal/Sweden; “#Unapologetic” by Mattel with Weber Shandwick & Ketchum/US; and “Abortion Travel” by the European Women’s Lobby/Spain. 

The “AutoComplete Truth” by the UN Foundation in UAE was very powerful. Using the power of Google to make the point that when you Google “women should….” from many different spots around the world, various insulting responses – some quite shocking for this day and age — bubble to the top.  There were many other campaign examples, but I think these exemplify how the issue is still being debated in many parts of the world.


The strength and importance of family – Families come in all shapes and sizes these days. It was heartwarming to see how various markets captured the importance of family no matter what its structure and situation  Some brands got behind this theme and made themselves an integral part of the story just as HoneyMaid did with the “Love” campaign. In this entry, this very wholesome brand was able to respond to a very hateful backlash with a wholesome response, all played out in real-time.  Beautiful.  Another campaign to look at that showcased the power of family is “Why Bring a Child Into this World” by Unilever in Argentina/UK.


Importance of stepping up child welfare – I found this to be a powerful area of program focus. Some of the entries are so fantastic they will make you cry. No one will ever deny that protecting our children has always been a key part of society, however what’s different now are the extremely creative ways that communicators used to gain awareness. I don’t think there’s a Cannes festival-goer that didn’t see the very powerful “Sweetie” entry by Lemez for Terre de Honner in the Netherlands. It’s an incredibly surprising program that is doing a lot of good around the world. Other strong campaigns in this area include:  “Movies That Change Lives” by Change One Life in Russia (that shined an amazingly creative light on such an important area); “No Child Brides” by Child Survival India/India (another very creative awareness solution to a series issue); and taking a page from the 2013 “Dumb Ways to Die” approach, “Bald Cartoons” by GRACC/Brazil that wonderfully underscored this issue.


Continued concern over climate change – Several countries put forth entries that highlighted the continued concern over this environmental issue.  One campaign that was particularly creative, and consistently received a chuckle each time it was viewed is“Climate Name Change” by 350 Action. With the creative idea to rename tropical storms and hurricanes after politicians that did not support climate change, the organization got their point across.


Digital innovations to create awareness and attention – There wasn’t a campaign entered in the Cannes festival that didn’t use digital or social media in some way. However, what was new and noticeable was the innovative use of new platforms and apps to give programs fresh excitement and help them breakthrough. If you haven’t had a chance to view “RiceCode” by Hakuhado for Inakadate Village, you must. It showcases how a small town in Japan drove rice purchase by creating huge art pictures in a rice field through the planting of different colors of rice that let visitors scan the rice art with their phones like a QR code. Another fabulous entry was by Loducca, Big Hassle Media for Record Collection for the release of John Frusciante’s CD release that was literally ‘beamed to a satellite space.’ Anyone using a mobile app was able to track the satellite; once it hovered over your part of the country, you could download the music. The “Chipotle Scarecrow” campaign that won the Grand Prix, also used a digital gamification strategy as part of their winning program. And finally, check out “A Trip Out to Sea” by Guy Cotton for Marine Security Gear Lifejackets. I promise it will not disappoint.



Renee Wilson is the Chief Client Officer of MSLGROUP.  She is responsible for the agency’s client service model, global client account planning, migration, quality assurance, tool and process development and relationship management.  She is a member of the global management board of MSLGROUP. 

Renee is the executive sponsor for P&G, responsible for the firm’s work across P&G’s diverse portfolio.  

She most recently was President, North America and oversaw its 14 operations throughout the continent.  Renee also previously served as the Managing Director of MSL New York where she oversaw the day-to-day operations of the firm’s flagship office.

Renee is also 2014 PR jury president for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June.  A proponent of giving back to the community, Renee sits on the Advisory Board for the Young Women’s Leadership Schools of NYC.