Expert tips and analysis for those contemplating the Lions in 2019

On Wednesday, 12th September, ICCO hosted #CannesUncovered at WE Communications offices in Covent Garden, London. The event encompassed analysis and observations of Cannes Lions 2018 from a variety of perspectives, as well as bold predictions and practical advice for those looking ahead to 2019.

“If you’re looking for inspiration, look no further than Trash Isles”, says Cannes Lions judge Candace Kuss, Social Media Director, H+K Strategies. The campaign went beyond traditional methods, they formed a country recognised by the United Nations! That’s something completely unprecedented in PR and it influenced political debate globally. Brands’ close affinity with politics and purpose was an inescapable trend throughout the festival’s awards and plenaries.


Discourse first, awards second?

So much so, Ruth Allchurch, UK Managing Director, WE Communications, challenged the nature of the festival itself, asking if it should be “discourse first, awards second”? Could Cannes become the Davos of the PR industry? The conversations, speeches, and debate have moved the festival in this direction to become a forum for discussion on strategic communication, reputation management, and business topics that stretch beyond the fantastic creativity. Could the thrust of the festival be altered to reflect this push for purpose?


Less yachts, more politics

Samantha Fay, Senior Vice President, Global Brand Strategy, Guinness World Records, observed that from a brand perspective, the word of the week was “disruption”. Across the fringe festival, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were at a tech show: with huge beaches hosted by Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others. Beyond this, management consultancy was there in a big way, including IBM and Accenture with a particularly large presence. Having visited the festival for the past seven years, Sam observes that it is growing up, there are less yachts and more serious conversations about global politics, concluding this direction of travel will continue is years to come.


Expect FOMO, plan ahead

Dee O’Connell, Director of Insight, FlieshmanHillard, provided some advice for anyone planning to make their Lions debut in 2019. Expect the FOMO, there is so much happening across the festival that you will inevitably feel you have missed out on something big – whether it be a huge moment, event, speech, piece of work, or something massive that everyone seems to be talking about. It’s important for individuals and teams to plan ahead – plan your time realistically and effectively knowing that you can’t do everything. She continued that whilst there is so much great PR work, not enough agencies were entering and with a bit more courage, confidence, and planning, 2019 could be a chance for PR agencies to reclaim territory in space being eaten up by other industries.  A final tip – avoid PowerPoint at all costs, the best sessions were discussions, games, demonstrations, and audience interactions.


Fiorenza Plinio, Head of Creative Excellence, Cannes Lions, picked out the three main themes of Cannes 2018 as ‘Politics’, ‘Experience’, and ‘Human’, reflecting both the analysis of the other panellists and the wider industry magnetism towards politics. As Ruth Allchurch put it, a “human first, tech last” approach, and Angela Ahrendts, former CEO of Burberry, and now head of the Apple’s retail activities, said in her session: “Apple is in the ‘humanity business’. “


ICCO hosts the House of PR at Cannes Lions every year – a hub for the PR industry throughout the festival, hosting networking events, seminars, and interviews, helping PR agencies maximise their time spent at the festival. If you’re interested in either dropping in, hosting an event, or just generally picking up some advice for 2019, contact ICCO General Manager Rob Morbin rob.morbin@iccopr.com.

#StepUp to Leadership

#StepUp to Leadership

ICCO members Global Women in PR hosted a #StepUp to Leadership event at the House of PR, with senior women and ‘manbassadors’ from across the festival attending to support the initiative. Co-founders Sue Hardwick and Angela Oakes opened with remarks about the importance of female leaders inspiring the next generation of women to have the self-belief to step up and achieve success. We grabbed seven high achieving women at the event to give their quick tips on how to #stepup, view here.

We Broke a Guinness World Record!

World Records are a fantastic way to draw attention to your brand and ICCO joined the fun by hosting live world record attempts at the House of PR throughout the week of Cannes Lions. Communications professionals and creatives came to the cabana to see if they could become the world’s fastest texter. After blood, sweat and tears, Rosie Baldwin, a videographer from London broke the world record with a time of 7.44 seconds.

Watch video here https://vimeo.com/276191095

Postcard from Cannes: There were far fewer PR people here than last year

It’s become a bit of a habit that I attach to my Postcard From Cannes a rather jolly photograph of me toasting the event with a glass of rosé. Well not this year.

Because I don’t think there’s much to toast.

“We have a problem with Cannes. And that means Cannes has a problem too.”

And I say that will all due deference to the winners -as they board their flights home from Nice, they will feel justifiably proud of their achievement. And nothing I write below diminishes those achievements in any way -quite the opposite.

But here’s the truth.

We have a problem with Cannes. And that means Cannes has a problem too.

There were far fewer PR people here than last year. Far fewer than when I first came here, five years ago. Familiar faces like Omnicom’s Gallagher; Golin’s Neil; Ketchum’s Flaherty; and even PRMoment’s Smith were absent. Those absences say something.

The decision not to award a Bronze Young Lion was strange; insulting; self-defeating. I spoke with the judges last night, and while I understand their perspective I still disagree with their judgement. It was, as I tweeted, a slap in the face for the thirty plus national teams who came here at considerable expense of billable time, air fares, hotel accommodation. A bad call.

The results last night were equally bad for our industry. Let’s not say ‘disappointing’. Let’s say bad. Very few winners. Advertising companies still dominating our space.

“Cannes needs to lower its prices”


I’d highlight two big issues. The first is cost. It costs a lot to enter, and a lot to be here. That in itself is an issue for many. In fact for the majority of PR agencies I know. For so long as costs are so high, the  number of pr entries will remain so low.

Stuart Smith made a great point to me yesterday – in year one of the PR Lions there were 431 entries in total. 28% of them were from PR agencies. Ten years on, there were 2,100 entries. Only 10% of them were from PR agencies. We are simply being outgunned.

Cannes needs to lower its prices. And then more PR agencies need to compete.

Secondly, the format.

The showreel element inevitably makes the playing field uneven. This is how Dynamo’s Pete Bowles put it on Twitter:

“Time to dump the showreel element? Say a small agency works on a brilliant but modest campaign and then entry fee is £1k + a showreel (let’s say £2k min) when up against Ad firms that *have* a showreel already, makes these awards a total loss leader for professional PRs.”

He’s right. Cannes needs to change that too. In a digital age, it’s a curious anachronism.

I remain an advocate of Cannes. Next year, ICCO will be back running the House Of PR, and  promoting the Young Lions competition. PRCA UK will run the UK Young Lions ‘round’, and pay for the winners to attend and compete. PRCA MENA will do likewise for its practitioners.

Cannes remains the key point at which we celebrate creativity in the creative industries. We need to be here in greater numbers. And we will encourage our members to do so. But Cannes need to itself be creative. And to embrace change.


Author: Francis Ingham, Chief Executive, ICCO

Jury Insights: Why the winners win!

“When it came to the social purpose entries, we had a saying: tears are not enough” Candace Kuss, Director of Social Media, Hill and Knowlton Strategies. If you are thinking of entering Cannes Lions next year, we have two much watch videos for you.

Firstly, a panel of four jurors from this year are quizzed by Maja Pawinska Sims, Holmes Report, on their decision process and advice for PR entries across all categories. Insights came from Denis Kaufman, Ketchum; Patricia Batuiri, Flieshmann Brazil; Alan Vandermolen WE Communcaitions and Candace Kuss.

Secondly, ICCO President and former PR Lions juror Elise Mitchell talks to the 2017 Young Lions winners at the House of PR about their successful and method strategy.

You can see the videos here.

Amnesty International sets Young Lions PR brief

Amnesty International has today provided a campaign brief to the Young Lions PR competitors at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, with the aim of developing a new communications platform to unite people against the evil of racism.

The brief is to develop a versatile communications platform / campaign for Amnesty, enabling it to credibly join and lead conversations on combatting racial discrimination.

Raising its profile as a relevant voice amongst 18-34 year olds, the platform needs to be flexible enough to adapt to local market and international deployment. The overall objectives are to raise awareness and positive sentiment for Amnesty, whilst growing its supporter base.

The Young Lions PR competition, organised by the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO), seeks to discover and celebrate the leading young creative PR team in the world. Teams of two from around the world are competing for the coveted title in Cannes after local competitions and elimination rounds, in their own country. These initial rounds of competition were set up by local Cannes Lions representatives.

Amnesty International is calling on teams to develop creative campaigns that will drive support for the campaign.

Francis Ingham, Chief Executive, ICCO, said: “One of the great contributions to the global PR and communications market has been our management of the Young PR Lions. We are delighted to see that it is bringing in more competitors year on year, and wish the best of luck to all of the teams, whichever ICCO country they come from.”

The competitors will have 24 hours to prepare their campaigns. By Tuesday 19th June at 19:00, all presentations and materials must be submitted, before they are then presented to judges on Wednesday, 20th June. The winning team will be announced at the PR Lions ceremony on Wednesday evening.

Last year’s Young Lions PR winners were the Hungarian team of Luca Hadnagy and Paloma Medina from HPS Experience.