Burger King, Greggs, Nike, Gillette: PR creative bosses on their best (and worst) campaigns of the past year

PRWeek editor-in-chief Danny Rogers, James Herring of Taylor Herring and Warren Johnson of W gathered other luminaries of the UK independent PR scene for the second Cannes PR Fringe event, discussing what really good work looks like in 2019.

Nike's campaign featuring former NFL star Colin Kaepernick won plaudits
Nike's campaign featuring former NFL star Colin Kaepernick won plaudits

The best

Jo Carr Greggs has done a very, very good job in the UK and its share price has reflected that. Burger King is doing it so well in terms of spontaneity.

Charles Tattersall Burgers [were] big at Cannes this year. A lot of the best campaigns are from McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s. The March for Our Lives ‘Price Tag’ initiative (below) stands out as an incredibly powerful example of how you can use a simple idea [to] show the human cost of political inaction. The shoe brand Toms’ ‘End Gun Violence Together’ campaign was brilliant.

Frankie Cory There’s nothing like putting your money where your mouth is, which is exactly what BNP Paribas, Mastercard and Gazeta.pl did when they bought Poland’s most iconic porn magazine, ‘Your weekend’, with the sole purpose of closing it down. However, before they shut it down, they published ‘The Last Ever Issue’, focusing on progressive narratives of femininity. Hats off to them, for making it happen and for overcoming their individual commercial business needs to collaborate on a shared, long-term strategy to empower women.

David Fraser I really like what Burger King has been doing lately – it put out a lot of disparate stuff but it seems to have the same feel to it: on the pulse of culture, a bit cheeky, super-inventive. Yeah it overstepped with Nigel Farage/milkshakes, but that’s what creative brands do once in a while.

A campaign that I loved was Tiny Tickers (below), where the heart charity linked the London Christmas shopping lights with a little boy’s heart[beat]. I also think Nike has had a golden year with stuff like Colin Kaepernick and its ‘crazy women’ ad [‘Dream Crazier’].

Lizzie Earl Twitter UK’s resurrection of John Lewis, the man. Not necessarily ‘out there’ creativity-wise, but proof that if people connect with a story/person/moment, even years later you can revisit it, so long as your execution is creatively different and new.

Globally, I love Thom Yorke’s recent stunt to tease his upcoming album – adverts across the world promoting a new ‘dream camera’. He’s a pro at unconventional entertainment PR: quirky, mysterious and always tapping into his fanbase’s current state of mind.

James Herring IKEA is consistently putting out great pieces of marketing that have PR baked-in. They could be billboards, events or product innovation – but they cut through to the news agenda. It’s impressive that we see such good work happening in multiple territories, with different creatives. In Spain it hid Items of IKEA furniture among 18th-century exhibits in the Museum of Romanticism in Madrid, and challenged the public to find them. Here in the UK it cleaned up the Thames with a remote-controlled boat styled from one of its famous bath toys.

Burger King has done some fantastic work, but the brand is over-fixated on McDonald’s. There are [only] so many times you can mock McDonald’s as your primary message. How long before the patter gets old, and the Whopper runs cold? I love its work, but should a brand with Burger King’s scale and spend have to ‘hijack’ anything?

The worst

Charles Tattersall Philip Morris… tobacco company, its at Cannes this week and is part of Cannes’ social good index because its position… now, its mission statement is: ‘Designing a smoke-free future’. How on earth has it got permission to even talk about sort of… you know… that, when it is who it is… outrage…

Peter Mountstevens Gillette ‘toxic masculinity’ (below)… a woke sledgehammer of a campaign and one of the worst examples of issue bandwagon-jumping in recent years. Ill-conceived, poorly executed and tone-deaf.

Warren Johnson I think less about brands, but it feels like International Women’s Day is the new Pride and I’m not quite sure what these sort of… you know, rainbow icon[s]… you can have all over your business. It feels like it’s been shamelessly appropriated in a really sort of naff way, so anyone that’s done that without any authenticity would go on my list.

Mark Perkins The Burger King ‘Real Meals Mental Health’, naming burgers after mental-health conditions is bad.

James Herring I’m going to give a mention to North Face for its ill-judged idea of hacking Wikipedia to try and get to the front page (below). As a brand that has done great work to speak up for the environment, what was it thinking to have tried on something like that?

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