There is natural skepticism in many quarters about the value of the PR industry decamping to a beautiful location in the South of France each June but, on balance, I believe the upsides outweigh the negatives.
As you can see, I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel for headline puns after five years of covering the Cannes Festival of Creativity, but here are my predictions for what I am sure will, as always, be an inspiring week on Le Côte d’Azur.
- PRWeek at Cannes - we are representing in force in Cannes as usual. We are part of the Haymarket Cabana with our siblings from Campaign, Medical Marketing & Media, and DMN. Don’t miss the PRWeek party directly after the PR Lions are handed out on Monday evening – register here if you aren’t already on the list. We have a CMO panel on Monday at 4:00pm on the topic of data and creativity, with top marketers from Pinterest, Dropbox, Microsoft UK, and Hilton. And don’t miss our Brands in Motion session at 11:00am on Tuesday with WE Communications and a stellar panel of top creative marketers from Airbnb, Samsung, and KFC. You can also join us at the Cabana for a cocktail at 5:00pm on Tuesday. We’ve also teamed up with MSLGroup for a session about Augmented Influence at the Majestic Hotel on Monday morning at 9:30am.
- PR at Cannes - Noone can truly predict where the deliberations of a Cannes Lions jury will end up, as the results of last year’s PR Lions showed. But, as stated in my recent editor’s letter, I do believe the PR sector’s time has come at Cannes and that the discipline will be well-rewarded this year – both in the PR Lions and other categories. The changes the PR industry has lobbied for in terms of the definition of PR in judging and a requirement that a PR firm be credited in all PR Lions submissions, along with a very strong chair of PR Lions jury in Karen van Bergen, will hopefully nudge the process forward.
- Delegate numbers - I spoke to one PR Cannes virgin this week who was able to book a direct flight to Nice from New York City, even at this late stage in proceedings. This suggests the portents of doom are accurate about delegate numbers being down this year due to a tightening of marketing budgets, concerns about economic instability and terrorist attacks in Europe, and a slight feeling Cannes may have jumped the shark or that this may be a good time to take a year off.
- Consultancies and big data - In light of this, the big consultancy firms may have rescued the Cannes organizers after a lot of traditional marketing services holding companies trimmed their budgets significantly. Players such as Deloitte, Accenture, McKinsey, and IBM are out in force this year, looking to sell their status as the masters of data-based strategy.
- PR firms in Le Palais - The big PR firms have also drunk the Palais des Festivals kool aid this year and will be heavily represented on the main stages. Ketchum’s Rob Flaherty will share the Lumiere spotlight with 80s acting icon Laura Dern, Weber Shandwick’s Jack Leslie goes toe to toe with the president of Colombia, Edelman hosts legendary photographer Mario Testino and Richard Edelman will interview civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, Golin subsidiary The Brooklyn Brothers’ founding partner Jackie Stevenson interviews actor Sir Ian McKellen, while H+K hosts Huawei CMO Glory Zhang. Time will tell what genuine long-term business value the agencies garner from these "Hollywood" activations.
- Campaigns to watch - In terms of work, expect State Street’s Fearless Girl statue activation to do well in various Lions categories. The Meet Graham road-safety campaign from Australia could be this year’s Dumb Ways to Die and I expect it to do well, though not quite as ubiquitously well as the catchy jungle-based rail-safety anthem that dominated Cannes week in 2013. Campaigns revolving around the new American presidency will no doubt feature prominently too. I’d also like to see campaigns that did well in PRWeek’s U.S. and Global Awards in the Lions shakeup.
- Diversity - I applaud all that Cannes has done to foster more gender and ethnic diversity in both the work submitted and the makeup of the creative teams behind the work and I hope these efforts are reflected in more diverse individuals being rewarded on stage with Lions, especially in the Glass Lions category.
- Not-so-smart stunts - I was emailed yesterday by a PR firm telling me there would be an unspecified stunt on La Croisette on Wednesday. Today I was emailed and told said stunt would no longer be happening. Clearly, in light of recent events, security has been tightened and it was probably considered a half-witted stunt might not be the best thing to be contemplating in the current climate. Very wise IMHO. Last year, an idiotic French internet-services company thought it would be a good idea to stage a mock terrorist attack involving a boatload of men dressed in military-style gear that panicked guests at the Hotel du Cap. Following last year’s truck attack in Nice two weeks after the Cannes festival that killed 86 people, such a moronic stunt this time would likely result in the participants being shot. Thankfully, the PR industry has largely moved beyond stunts as its bread and butter, though unfortunately I’m sure some will still be rewarded in the PR Lions.
- No need to gloat - For those who are lucky enough to be in Cannes, enjoy this unique opportunity to immerse yourself in inspiration, creativity, thought-provoking opinions, a little star dust and, of course, a lot of rosé. For those not making the trip, life goes on as normal, and you can catch up with all the best campaigns, content, opinions, and analysis at www.prweek.com. You can also follow proceedings remotely in five cities - New York, London, Sao Paulo, Sydney, and Johannesburg - via Facebook’s Cannected events. There you go; I just had to end on another pun. See you on La Croisette!