What makes a Cannes PR Lion-winning campaign in 2019? Jury president Michelle Hutton tells all

With Cannes Lions starting in just two weeks, PR Lions jury president Michelle Hutton discusses common entry themes, what the jurors are looking for, celebrating PR craft, and why it's a "numbers game".

Michelle Hutton: 'It’s our opportunity and responsibility to celebrate the craft of what we do'
Michelle Hutton: 'It’s our opportunity and responsibility to celebrate the craft of what we do'

Hutton – Edelman’s London-based MD of global clients, who will shortly return to her native Australia for a different role – points to three key changes in the PR category for 2019.

"We have changed the description of the PR Lions to focus more on attracting work that is ‘earned at its core’," Hutton tells PRWeek.

"We have added a new Culture and Context section to the Lions this year, which aims to give a home to more regionally-specific and localised work.

"We have also amended the questions we ask the entrants so we can be more results and earned focused.

"Essentially we are trying to ensure that we are celebrating the craft of PR and rewarding work which is designed with PR input."

Judging has already begun this year, with the "pre-judging" all-but completed. Thirty-five judges have been involved in that process, 10 of whom (including Hutton) will meet in Cannes for the second stage.

She describes pre-judging as a "really effective way to do the judging", given the amount of entries (the organisers aren’t revealing entry numbers at this stage, incidentally). Hutton also praises the diversity of the jury (see full list at the bottom of the article).

The Cannes Lions regular, who was a PR Lions juror in 2017, looks at the key issues from a PR perspective.

On common entry themes…

"There appears to be a wider range of topics under the purpose umbrella. That’s a great thing. We are seeing very timely campaigns that drive action, whether it be women’s rights in markets ranging from the US to the Middle East, through to Latin America - there are really brilliant simple ideas that have created great conversations around that issue. We’ve seen great work around the environment, we’ve seen work around various social and political issues.

[Pictured: Trash Isles, the 2018 PR Lions Grand Prix winner].

"I think some of the interesting themes apart from purpose... one is the use of technology, particular voice and sound. AI, obviously, but if you just classify it as creative technology, that’s really coming through.

"I think the second interesting theme is around data and analytics. The way campaigns are using data in a really smart way to inform the strategy and the creative is very innovative. And I think lastly, and it’s not across the board, but I’ve been really pleased with the results measurement piece that many of the campaigns are giving, which is clearly important. It’s not just outcomes measurement, it’s proper impact measurement, which is a huge step change."

On what the PR Lions jury will be looking for…

"One: work that’s intentionally informed by earned. Secondly, work that has a really clear, crisp insight that’s led to the creative. And thirdly, the results piece - we’re looking for work that’s had a measureable impact and not just output, not just a celebration of likes and eyeballs and media coverage."

On ad agencies handling earned media…

"You can’t deny the fact that the ‘earned playbook’ is now being used by disciplines outside the traditional communications world. Equally, I think that clients are recognising the value of earned creative, and businesses and brands today I think need earned creative more than ever because of the changes in the media eco system, technology, consumer viewing habits - all of the above. So I think there’s a drive, also, from the client side for agencies to do more effective creative in the earned world."

On PR as craft…

"I’ve had these conversations with many in the industry and I think it’s our opportunity and responsibility to celebrate the craft of what we do. I think in many years in Cannes, PR has been seen as a channel. There are many conversations around craft but it hasn’t always involved the 'PR' world. I very much want to use this opportunity to talk about what we do as a craft because it is a craft - a merger of science and emotion. The communications world, I think, has the opportunity to stand loud and proud about what we can be doing in today’s world to tell their stories more effectively."

On PR agencies entering other Lion categories…

"Firstly, I hope our industry has entered in the PR category. I really do, because it is a numbers game and we’ve got to be in it to win it. And the reality is, if we just take the PR category, numbers of entries have been increasing year-on-year, but entries from PR agencies have been in decline.

"If you look at the Gold Lion winners across all of the different categories in the last few years, you could probably argue that a majority of that work has been earned-centric in some way, shape or form. Again, I think that’s testament to the fact that’s the type of work that’s resonating in the world now and gets celebrated at these festivals. I’m not surprised that PR agencies are looking to enter outside the category and I think it’s great when we win outside of our home base. But I think equally a win in our home base should not be underestimated. That’s our home playing field and that’s where we should play."

On the changes at Cannes last year…

"A shorter programme in terms of days makes a lot of sense. Typically, people were coming in and out for a few days anyway. I think the programming is getting smarter and smarter every year, the way they curate content across the various media platforms that show up. I think the way they curate the experience for attendees is getting better and better."

On Edelman’s plans for Cannes…

"From an Edelman standpoint, we see the importance of the festival on our annual programme. It’s a way for us to demonstrate the breadth and depth of work we’re doing around the world. We’re entering work across multiple categories and we’re really delighted about that.

"We’ll be having our own space at Edelman for our attendees and clients to use as a base. We are on the official programme then we will have some side activities. We’ll have people from all parts of the world, people who touch our business in various ways, creative folks, client folks, a whole mix of people will be arriving in Cannes shortly."

On Hutton’s favourite part of Cannes…

"It’s the work. I just love spending time looking at the work, and I encourage everybody who attends to spend time looking at the work. I think the second thing that I always look forward to is the programme itself; the quality of speakers who come to Cannes is getting increasingly better. I’m disappointed that I’m not going to spend more time in the Palais watching programme content, but from what I’ve seen there’s some really good speakers on the programme. Richard [Edelman] will be speaking to Thomas Heatherwick, probably one of the world’s most highly acclaimed architect designers. He’s got a really interesting point of view about how creativity and design impacts the world at large. Speakers like that, who you don’t have the chance to see in person, is what I really like about the festival."

PR Lions Jury 2019

  • Candace Peterson, global MD brand marketing, FleishmanHillard
  • Cornelia Kunze, founder/managing partner, i-Sekai
  • Howard Pulchin, global creative director, APCO Worldwide
  • Jenna Young, executive creative director, Weber Shandwick U.S.
  • Marta Karlqvist, CEO, Nordics, BCW
  • Shouvik Prasanna Mukherjee, executive creative director, Golin Singapore
  • Simon Shaw, global chief creative strategy & innovation officer, Hill+Knowlton Strategies
  • Vania Ciorlia, EVP, Ketchum Brazil
  • Yvonne Van Bokhoven, EVP Europe, Lewis Communications
  • Alexey Fedorov, executive creative director, BBDO Russia
  • Angela Spain, head of PR activation & social, FCB Auckland
  • Carlos Verastegui, partner and chief creative officer, ACHE Mexico
  • Caterina Tonini, CEO, Havas PR Milan
  • Deepshikha Dharmaraj, MD, Genesis BCW
  • Diana Littman, U.S. CEO, MSL
  • Dita Stejskalová, MD, Ogilvy Czech Republic
  • Kenn Van Lysebeth, creative/PR, TBWA Brussels
  • Kilgeun Jung, PR executive, CJ Corporation
  • Kotaro Tachiya, The Advisor, Hakuhodo
  • Maciej Marasek, partner/chief creative director, 2012 Agency
  • Manuela Munoz, corporate communications manager, Netflix Latin America
  • Marie-Josee Gagnon, CEO & founder, Casacom
  • Marith Hartmann, partner, senior advisor, GK Nordic
  • Melinda Po, MD, Edelman China
  • Murat Lecompte, chief external affairs officer, Socar
  • Rachel Friend, CEO UK & Ireland, Weber Shandwick
  • Rodrigo Freitas, CEO, Central De Informação
  • Russ Tucker, national creative director, Digital Arts Network
  • Sandrine Cormary, GM, Omnicom Public Relations Group France
  • Simona Simon, group creative director, McCann PR România
  • Sujitra Ketsuwan, director, corporate affairs and marketing communications, Dentsu X Thailand
  • Suzanne Talhouk, GM, J. Walter Thompson Lebanon
  • Valerie Tan, VP - PR, social media and internal communications, Emirates
  • Vanesa Peloche, MD Madrid, Equipo Singular

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