News & Views

Cannes Lions / PR Lions Awards

by Contagious Team

David Gallagher, CEO of Ketchum Europe and president of the Cannes Lions PR jury, heralded the end of the era of the press release at this year's advertising festival

'If you think about what makes great content - in our business it wasn't that long ago that content was centred around a press release,' he said. 'Those days are gone.'

And the Grand Prix winner in PR Dumb Ways to Die, the Metro Trains campaign that used a humorous animated music video to encourage rail safety, is nothing if not great content. Gallagher said of the campaign: 'The content is based around real human insight. It understands that safety is not a fun message, and to reach children it needs to be fun. We felt it was a great demonstration of where this business is going from the press release to eminently shareable content.' 

Though Dumb Ways to Die won on the first ballot, Gallagher said that there was a 'passionate contingency' that felt that Unilever brand Dove's Real Beauty Sketches should have scooped the Grand Prix, instead of the Gold award it won. 

Other notable winners were the SPCA New Zealand's Driving Dogs campaign, via Draftfcb, Auckland, and the Thai Health Promotion Foundation's Smoking Kid, via Ogilvy & Mather, Bangkok, both of which won silver. Juror James Wright, managing director of Red Agency in Australia, commended the campaigns for defying the rule of not working with animals or dogs. 'They were courageous and provoked great debate,' he said. 

Speaking about the criteria for this year's PR winners, Gallagher said: 'We were looking for work that drives conversation, amplifies conversation, primarily through earned media and social media. The rise of social media does in fact bring back the public into public relations, there may have been a time where we forgot that. I think we're about to see a renaissance in the PR business.' 

Fellow juror Nancy Seliger, EVP and senior partner, global client relations at Fleishman Hillard, added: 'We looked for entries that really pulled through the messages, as opposed to shareability or delivering a one-time flash in the pan.' 

While surprisingly few PR agencies bagged awards in the category last year (the awards were dominated by advertising agencies), this year PR agencies fared better, with more entries, shortlisted campaigns, and awards for PR agencies. Gallagher said: 'PR agencies can and are winning at Cannes. It's clear to me that the competition is fierce. Ideas come from anywhere, and you can win from virtually any kind of agency.' 

However, he said that while the campaigns from PR agencies achieved good results and had clear strategy, these ideas were not always ambitious enough. The best campaigns were those where PR and advertising experts joined forces to maximise their skills. He also urged PR agencies to enter work, saying a lot of great campaigns weren't necessarily entered into the festival. 

Gallagher recognised huge changes in the world of PR, telling Contagious that the industry would move towards creating more videos, with the same high production values as advertising agencies, designed to be shareable. Speaking about the blurring of lines between advertising and PR he said: 'More advertising agencies have PR divisions and PR agencies have advertising divisions. The PR agencies that have evolved with the times will succeed.' 

Click here for the full list of winners.