What everyone wants to know about Cannes Lions by Petra Sammer

Guest blog post by Petra Sammer, Chief Creative Officer, Ketchum Pleon & 2014 PR Lions Juror

Cannes Lions jury-members are generally asked two questions:  “How do I win?” and “Does PR really fit into the Cannes Lions Festival?” This year I have the honour of serving as a jury member on the PR Lion Awards and, true to form, I’ve been asked these questions many times. Here are my humble replies:

How do I win?

The first thing to remember is that the Cannes Lions competition organisers select new juries each year.  So there isn’t an entirely consistent winning formula, given that each new mix of professionals brings with them a slightly different focus and breadth of experience.

With a jury of 21 judges in the PR category alone, that focus can be really complex. This year the PR category jury brings together representatives from different networks, big agencies and small. There are judges across all global regions spreading from the Americas, to Europe, to Asia-Pacific. There are seven men and fourteen women from a host of different PR disciplines. There are 10 judges from network agencies and 11 from smaller agencies.  Five are from the Americas, twelve are from Europe, plus there are others from Japan, Australia, New Zealand and India. It’s impossible to predict exactly what focus this “always-new-mix” may have until us judges get to work.

But I don’t want to disappoint you, and leave you with an unhelpful reply. Yes, of course there is a basic winning recipe, no matter who is on the jury. It’s what we call at Ketchum, the RISC-Factor. Judges will always look for strong Research behind a campaign. They will expect work to be built on a single Insight.  They will seek out a compelling Strategy and then want a wow moment of breakthrough Creativity. The trick is to present your award submissions in a very simple story that makes the RISC-Factor sing!  Jury members might see up to 10,000 campaigns during Cannes. So the simpler your story, and the clearer your evidence, the better.

Does PR fit into the Cannes Lions?

The simplicity you need to stand out at Cannes challenges many PR programmes. A lot of PR disciplines, like ongoing media issues or crisis PR, don’t fit easily into the Cannes format. Because of this, some people accuse Cannes Lions of forcing entrants to simplify PR and value the fancy, lifestyle-ish side of our profession above the deeper, more complex but no less worthy corporate work we do. My view is that we shouldn’t fall into the trap of regarding even Cannes Lions as the ultimate judgment of our creativity, or our profession for that matter.

There is so much creativity out there in PR, and so many different ways in which PR is not covered by Cannes. But does that mean we shouldn’t go there? Of course not!  The Cannes Lions Festival throws a spotlight on some of the strongest work in PR. It inspires our creatives and helps our industry recharge its batteries. It shows the power of PR and acts as a shop window for our clients and their brands, as well as other organizations and causes. Ultimately Cannes Lions draws attention to some of the wonderful campaigns that help make this world a better place.  And that´s the reason why I go. I hope I’ll see you there.



Petra Sammer, Partner & Chief Creative Officer, joined Ketchum 1992, was named Managing Director Ketchum Germany in 2006 and became a “Creative Hub” of the agency in Germany and Europe after Ketchum and Pleon merged in 2010.

As Chief Creative Officer Petra promotes the areas or creativity, strategy and planning to fulfil the agency´s promise of “break through ideas”. With more than 20 years of experience in marketing and PR, she is constantly building solutions at the intersection of business, communication and entertainment – a recognized leader with the ability to successfully inspire teams, drive business goals and serve storytellers, marketeers, digital experts and communication professionals – within the agency and clients.

Petra has provided award-winning thought leadership to major brands including Burger King, Bosch, BMW, Kodak, IBM, Mattel, Merck, Pixar, Starbucks and Sennheiser to name a few.

Petra is part of the 2014 PR Lions Jury at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.