Cannes Lions Predictions for PR 2014

Guest blog post by David Gallagher, ICCO President & CEO EMEA, Ketchum

As I write this from cold, grey and wet London, it’s hard to believe that in just a few weeks the world’s marketing and communications geniuses will descend on the sunny South of France in droves for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

The PR community has been making itself felt at Cannes with increasing numbers and influence for the past few years, and there is every reason to think 2014 may be the break-through year we’ve been waiting for.  So while the creative are choosing which ironic t-shirts to pack and local restaurants are stockpiling crates of rose, let’s make a few predictions:

  1. 2014 becomes the year many PR people say they ‘got’ Cannes.  While our interest has been mostly around the awards competition and the mainstage speakers, 2014 marks the first year of a Young PR Lions competition.  Two-member teams from agencies around the world, thanks to sponsorship of ICCO and the underwriting support of global agency leaders Ogilvy,GolinHarris, H+K Strategies and my own employer, Ketchum, will answer a brief and demonstrate the problem-solving power of PR before a jury of global experts.  This is not a prediction, but a fact, but I believe it will mark the beginning of a tipping point, when sufficient numbers of PR people – especially our young influential – are engaged in the Cannes phenomena to make it part of their annual ‘inspiration diet’ for years to come.
  2. A PR agency wins a Gold Lion in a non-PR category. I’m not sure – this may have already happened – but with the quality of PR agency submissions year on year, and with greater familiarity with the overall workings of the festival, I think this will be the year where one of us wins big in another category.  And why not?  Most great campaigns are designed to be shareable and newsworthy from the get-go.
  3. AVE continues to decline as a measure of campaign effectiveness.  Last year’s jury made a point of frowning on advertising value equivalency – AVE, the dubious practice of assigning editorial news coverage an advertising value as an evaluation metric.  We urged future competitors to use real business, policy, behavioural  or social outcomes as the yardsticks for effectiveness.  I doubt AVE will die completely this year, but I hope it’s in in its last throes.
  4. A PR agency will win the PR Grand Prix!  Last year I predicted this would happen within two competitions, but that was a hedge.  After visiting many top agencies and national ICCO member associations, I am convinced that this is the year one of us takes home the biggest prize of all from the festival’s Monday ceremony. Network agencies are finding their best work to enter, and smaller independents are stepping into the ring with remarkable entries; surely one of theme will prevail this year.


In any case, this year’s festival promises to be a memorable and inspiring demonstration of global creativity, and for the first time ICCO will be on hand to welcome members of the PR community with hospitality and networking.  Please look for the ICCO booth in the Palais for information on ICCO activities and events.

As a Senior Partner and CEO of Ketchum’s European operations and chairman of the UK agency, David Gallagher brings more than 20 years of public relations experience, both as a client and as a senior agency adviser, to some of the world’s leading brands and companies.

David Gallagher oversees Ketchum’s nine European agencies and their specialist services, which include consumer public relations, healthcare communications, corporate affairs and social responsibility, public affairs, change management, and clinical trial recruitment.

He is president of the International Communications Consultancy Organization (ICCO), the global umbrella network of 30 national PR agency trade associations, and a fellow and past chairman of the UK Public Relations Consultants Association.  He chairs the World Economic Forum’s global agenda council on the future of media, and was the 2014 PR jury president for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.