Cannes Lions: plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

PR firms showed up pretty well in the sector's eponymous Lions category, but the shortlist was still dominated by advertising agencies.

It is too early to draw final conclusions about the PR sector’s performance in its own Lions category, but the makeup of the PR Lions shortlist was depressingly familiar.

Despite strong showings in terms of idea creation credits by Edelman, Weber Shandwick (and its 3PM Anheuser-Busch partnership), Ketchum, Golin, Aflac’s ‘My Special Aflac Duck’ activation supported by Carol Cone on Purpose, and a better-than-usual showing by U.K. PR firms, the vast majority of shortlisted entrants once again came from the advertising sector.

There are those who believe ad agencies see easy pickings in the PR Lions because they are less competitive than other categories and specialist communications agencies have yet to crack the code in terms of constructing effective video supporting material for their submissions.

Others note that the heavy lifting PR disciplines where our sector thrives such as Crisis Comms & Issues Management (just two campaigns shortlisted this year) and Internal Communications & Employee Engagement (only one shortlisted activation) still have a relatively low profile at Cannes.

There was at least decent representation in the PR Effectiveness and Media Relations categories, but PR firms only snagged three of the 13 shortlisted entries in the core Corporate Image, Communication & Reputation Management category.

The most popular categories for shortlisted campaigns were Social Behavior & Cultural Insight (31 shortlisted, seven from PR agencies), Celebrity, Influencers & Leaders (16 shortlisted, three of them from PR firms), Not For Profit/Charity/Government (15 shortlisted, one PR agency) and, predictably, Use of Events & Stunts (15 shortlisted, three from the PR world).

It’s always good to see campaigns that performed well in the PRWeek Awards do well in Cannes, and several stood out this year.

McDonald’s Big Mac 50th Anniversary, supported by Golin, which won Best Global Campaign and Best Product Brand Development in the PRWeek US Awards in March, was shortlisted twice - in Multi-Market Campaign and PR Effectiveness. The Interpublic firm also has two chances for its Tiny Tickers Twinkle Twinkle Little Heart work and one for Clif Bar’s Luna Bar Equal Pay Campaign.

Weber Shandwick/3PM’s AB InBev/Bud Light Victory Fridge was shortlisted twice – it won Best Creative Excellence and Best Promotional Event at the PRWeek US Awards. Weber also got four other idea credits, twice for Iceland Foods’ Rang-Tan work in the U.K. (with Taylor Herring), once for Ancestry’s Railroad Ties and HSBC’s Deep Fraud.

Edelman is nominated seven times for idea creation, the most of any PR firm, including two for Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Treats Love Notes. Ironically, Edelman lost the Kellogg account to Weber Shandwick earlier this year.

IHOP’s IHOB: The Day IHOP Flipped the Script is nominated for Best Retail, with a joint idea creation credit for DeVries Global and Droga 5. This activation won Best Consumer Launch at the PRWeek US Awards.

Aflac’s ‘My Special Aflac Duck’ work with Carol Cone on Purpose is nominated three times. Ketchum’s PRWeek US Best in a Crisis winner for Discover Puerto Rico is shortlisted at Cannes for Media Relations.

There are undoubtedly some strong candidates from PR firms in the running, and we’ll soon know who takes home the PR Lions, which will be unveiled around 2:00pm EST, so look out for the winners at - let’s hope there will be a lot of happy PR agency executives streaming out onto the red carpet outside Le Palais.

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