Pride of the Lions

Written by Emily Andrews



The Cannes Lions Festival has a storied history of recognising the best in advertising and marketing. In recent years, it has honoured more work in the PR, brand and corporate communications space. Emily Andrews reports.

Once an awards festival that was predominantly geared toward the advertising community, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in its 62nd year, now caters to professionals from across the creative communications industries. These days, public relations professionals receive greater recognition by the organisations that they operate and collaborate with. Because of this and because of the increased integration of communications disciplines, the PR industry is also beginning to receive due representation and recognition at the prestigious Cannes Lions event.

Cannes Lions offers a packed, week-long programme of awards and events including workshops, exhibitions, screenings, masterclasses and seminars. Sam Lythgoe, MD at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, says, “The Cannes Lions Festival is unique because it goes beyond being just an awards show, it builds a community for a whole week that allows creativity to be shared between people from all kinds of backgrounds who ultimately share the same goal.” The festival is truly global with over 13,500 delegates attending from around 90 different countries.

Cannes_Lions2.jpegFor some, the networking opportunities available are the main draw, and around a third of those in attendance don’t actually go along to the scheduled talks. The event allows industry leaders from brands and agencies around the world to meet and share ideas. David Gallagher, CEO at Ketchum Europe and ICCO president, says, “Some come to be inspired, others to network. For me it’s a little bit of both, plus an opportunity to peek at great work from other disciplines and agencies.”

This year delegates are looking forward to the inaugural Glass Lion award. The award recognises work that implicitly or explicitly addresses issues of gender inequality or prejudice. The winning campaign should represent a shift towards more positive, progressive and gender-aware communications. Lauren Crampsie, worldwide chief marketing officer at Ogilvy & Mather, says, “I am most looking forward to the inaugural Glass Lion award, which I hope will eventually broaden its focus from gender inequality to all cultural injustices we face as a society. Marketers have a responsibility now, more than ever, to lead the charge for global change.” In its launch year, the Glass Lion category has received 166 entries.

Also new this year is the Lions Innovation Festival, a two-day event which will explore data and technology as catalysts for creativity. Fenot Tekle, senior corporate communications manager at LinkedIn, says, “This year, I’m expecting to hear about the intersection of technology and creativity. At LinkedIn, we consider this the core of our own business, so we’re excited to learn about how others in the industry are thinking about it.”

Cannes_Lions3.jpgAt this year’s Cannes Lions, the best place to network will be on the new Official Cannes Lions Beach, directly opposite the renowned Carlton Hotel. In the morning, delegates will be able to hear the CMOs of major global brands in conversation with the Economist, and at five o’clock in the evening, ‘Meet the Winners’ sessions will take place. Cannes sponsor, ICCO, will, for the first time, act as a host and convener for the PR and communications community at its House of PR on the beachfront.

ICCO will also be sponsoring the Young Lions PR Competition for the second time this year. The competition sees teams of young PR professionals briefed by a charity or non-profit organisation acting as the ‘client.’ The entries are judged and winners will receive tickets to next year’s Cannes Lions as well as the invaluable exposure that the festival provides.

The Cannes Lions programme covers a wide range of topics. The highlights for PR professionals will depend on the sector they operate in, whether their clients are mostly B2B or B2C, and other factors, however, a yearly favourite is the Saatchi & Saatchi presentation, which surprised people last year with heart rate monitors and a screening of hugely creative video content. The event, which celebrates new directing talent, is celebrating its 25th year at the festival.

Cannes_Lions4.jpgCannes Lions also has its fair share of celebrity speakers with this year’s line-up including Pharrell Williams on ‘creativity through collaboration,’ David Guetta on ‘authenticity and influence through celebrity endorsements’ and Marilyn Manson at the ninth annual Grey Music Seminar. These talks add to the glitz and the glamour of the event which takes place in a part of France that has long been associated with celebrity and luxury.

Many of the PR agencies in attendance will contribute to the packed festival schedule by hosting their own talks and panels, and many more have entered into at least one of the 17 Cannes Lions awards categories and will be hoping to take home a prestigious Lion trophy. Ketchum, the most awarded PR agency at Cannes, has entered 23 projects this year. It is also hosting three different sessions, including the Young Lions Marketers Competition, where some of the globe’s best young talent will compete to develop a creative brief for a worldwide charity.

Across Cannes Lions, Lions Health and Lions Innovation, the prestigious awards have received more than 40,000 entries. At the festival, entries are judged by over 300 creative leaders before winners are awarded in five separate ceremonys. Shortlisted work is showcased in exhibitions and screenings for the duration of the event. A Cannes Lions trophy is a symbol of quality around the world and in every creative industry.

Cannes_Lions5.jpgThe main Cannes Lion festival is preceded by Lions Health on 19-20 June, it is a mini festival, launched in 2014, that is exclusively for the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry. The event was introduced to give due recognition to the previously overlooked health sector, an area with a wide range of unique communications challenges and one where strong creative strategy has the power to change lives. The inaugural Lions Innovation mini-festival will run on 25-26 June, overlapping with the main festival which runs from 21-27 June.

Each brand will come to Cannes Lions with separate motives and ideas about what it wants to take away from the event, whether it’s making new connections, learning from peers or gaining recognition for good work. The breadth of the festival programme and the variety of attendees offers a veritable feast for those that are passionate about communications.

Lythgoe says, “Apart from the great opportunity to be inspired by the work, the events and the people there. Cannes offers the chance for PR pros to be included in the conversation with the ‘traditional’ creative agencies – to be celebrated for the creativity that we also produce. But we’re still the new kids on the block, and need to do a better job of selling the idea, versus the execution.”

While PR at Cannes Lions remains largely overshadowed by advertising behemoths, the growing inclusion of PR professionals contributes to the strength of the event as it embraces more creative disciplines. As communications becomes more integrated in the post-digital age, there is less need to differentiate between disciplines. It is far more lucrative to celebrate outstanding, innovative work that achieves what it sets out to, whatever shape the creative process behind it takes.

Karen Strauss, partner and chief strategy officer at Ketchum, says, “The Cannes Lions Festival is the purest celebration of great ideas. No other marketing services gathering honours the blurring of the lines between disciplines like Cannes, with the most original work rising to the top.” This year’s event will offer some new attractions, but overall the principle intention is the same as ever; to exhibit and share the world’s most extraordinary creative work.


Article extracted from Communicate Magazine.