The UK independent PR bosses at the PR Cannes Fringe last week expressed their admiration for Lion-wining campaigns such as Lacoste’s ‘Save our Species’ (Gold Lion in Brand Experience by BETC, Paris) and Edeka’s ‘The Most German Supermarket’ (Gold Lion in PR by Jung Von Matt, Hamburg) - but they also identify a host of campaigns not rewarded at Cannes, including work from Greggs and Burger King.
"All of the best work is where the business actually changes," said Warren Johnson, founder of W. "I think comms can be a veneer; actually it has to start with business change. My favourite campaign was Lacoste’s endangered species campaign. It’s great when businesses are really brave, when they actually man up and do something different. Another example is the work from KFC."
Jo Carr, co-founder of Hope & Glory, said: "I think also retailers are at the cutting edge because they do move so quickly, and do stuff that changes their business. For example, the best thing Burger King (Argentina) did last year was when they sent everybody to McDonald's because it was running a charity day, they wouldn’t sell Whoppers for that day."
"There is also the German supermarket, Edeka, which challenged xenophobia, by taking everything out of the supermarket that wasn’t German (see video below). Customers were saying, 'I’d like some chocolate' and Edeka were saying: 'Sorry, we don’t sell chocolate, because that comes from Peru’."
Carr continued: "How many times do clients say to us, ‘Oh, we don’t want anything that disrupts the normal way of doing things.’ But actually, the brands who are brave enough to disrupt how they work actually win, I think."
Frankie Cory, CEO of Mischief, said: "I’m not just saying this because of our hosts but I would say two my favourite campaigns are the work from Greggs (Taylor Herring) and the stuff on CALM (Multiple winner at Cannes 2018 - idea by Adam&EveDDB, PR by W). These are the ones that get talked about a lot in the office amongst my team. The thought ‘I wish I had done that’ is the benchmark of a great campaign."
Gemma Vardon, executive creative director at Golin, who was also attending PR Cannes Fringe, said: "Beauty and fashion brands in the UK are doing some great PR work at the moment. Particularly the likes of ASOS, which is creatively tackling issues such as body image and giving the brand more of a purpose, that doesn’t feel forced or fake. The Samsung QuickDrive and CALM campaigns this year have also stood out for me."
W’s ECD, Mark Perkins had some more leftfield favourites: "I’m very enamoured by the Meat Mountain from Japan for Wagyu Beef. It’s a scaled version of Mount Fuji made out of Wagyu Beef!"
"On a more serious note there’s a campaign called Tomorrow’s Shooting, which was by anti-gun violence charity Sandy Hook Promise to raise awareness of, and champion, gun control in America. They took the stance that because gun shootings in schools are so frequent, the news reports are almost a template. You see the kids running out of the school, the SWAT teams ushering them out, the reporters outside. And the reporter is saying, ‘There will be a shooting at the school tomorrow, there will be children running around.’ The results are really powerful."
Angie Moxham, formerly founder of 3 Monkeys and now the founder of Fourth Angel, agreed that modern campaigns need to be brave and embrace ‘true purpose’. But she was critical of the ‘empty’ stunt work produced by brands such as Paddy Power.
Moxham said: "That Paddy Power work to celebrate the beginning of the World Cup in Russia, where they put a red cross St George’s flag on a polar bear, albeit digitally, begs the question: what’s the point? It’s just another stunt. There has to be an overarching thought and golden thread; a purpose to what you’re doing.
"If you’re Paddy Power and you want to start trying to save the polar bears from extinction, great cause. So really invest in that long-term, not just for one moment and get people betting on it in order to raise the funds to fund that, that’s my view."