Industry Voice: 'A summer of love for PR but none for AVEs and Cannes'

July is often a month for reflection, so here are my three topics upon which to reflect: One is good; one is a caution against complacency; one is a call to arms.

Winning ways

The good. The industry is – as my friend David Gallagher would say – in rude health. The June ICCO European meeting in Budapest showed me an industry that continues to grow and challenge itself. Not without problems for sure – the crackdown on independent media in Hungary; our industry’s confrontation with fake news pretty much everywhere around the world, for example – but undoubtedly all going in the right direction.

In the clash of disciplines, we are winning. And that bodes well for our future. In fact, it ensures it.

Measure for measure

The caution. At the AMEC Global Summit in Barcelona, I heard some people say that the measurement war has been won. That proper evaluation has been embedded within our industry. And there were some tweets and LinkedIn messages saying the same.

Those people are wrong. They look at the UK and North America and they think that the evaluation sophistication that has now stable root there is the norm. It is not. The ICCO World Report tells us that a majority of agency heads in each of the seven out the nine global markets that we identify use AVEs.

There is a danger in a room of believers for us all to shout ‘Jesus Saves!’ And ignore the mass of non-believers outside. Let’s double down on evaluation in the UK and elsewhere. Much done. Much more left to do.

Cannes changes needed

The call to arms. Cannes 2018 was bad. Too few winners in the main Lions. An incredibly disappointing Young PR Lions where, for good but flawed reasons, only Gold and Silver were awarded – not Bronze.

There are two existential problems that Cannes needs to address.

Not enough PR companies are entering Cannes. And Cannes is choosing the wrong winners.

Jury president Ogilvy’s Stuart Smith put it well – in year one of the PR Lions, there were 431 entries in total. And 28 per cent of them were from PR agencies.

Ten years on, there were 2,100 entries. Only 10 per cent of them were from PR agencies. The ad agencies bring battalions. We bring platoons. Unsurprisingly, we lose.

Cannes needs to lower its prices. And then more PR agencies need to compete.

And the format needs to change. The obsession with the showreel gives ad agencies an unfair advantage.

I’m all for a fair fight – anyone who knows me knows that – but we’re not fighting as equals. PR agencies are hopping around with one arm tied behind their backs, fighting ad agencies that are resplendent in shining armour. This can’t continue.

I am a massive fan of Cannes. ICCO will be there next year. So will PRCA UK and MENA. But Cannes itself needs to embrace creativity and change.

So. Some thoughts for July. Enjoy!

Francis Ingham is PRCA director-general and ICCO executive director

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