Influencer targeting, true purpose, humour through data... six trends from PRWeek UK Awards winners

They all excelled in their own fields, but this year's crop of PRWeek UK Award-winning campaigns deployed an impressively wide range of techniques and approaches.

This list of the main trends is not exhaustive, but points towards some key dynamics shaping PR campaigns in 2019.

Before we begin, I strongly recommend reading the write-ups of the winning campaigns over the coming weeks to learn more about these outstanding pieces of work.

Congratulations to all the winners.

Take me back to the PRWeek 2019 winners page

Trend 1: Brands are finding 'purpose' through lateral thinking

Modern 'purpose' campaigning has developed into two distinct types: those linked inextricably with the operation of the brand or corporation (a supermarket pledging to use less plastic packaging, for example); and those that find another purpose by delving deeper and teasing out a wider social 'good'.

While recent years have seen the dominance of the former, often linked to environmental pledges, this year's awards include terrific examples of campaigns that have applied lateral thinking for a wider purpose message.

4GEE Cinema by M&C Saatchi Public Relations for EE is about a mobile network operator bringing isolated communities together through film; Ride to Find by Talker Tailor Trouble Maker for Deliveroo uses food delivery riders on the streets to help find missing people; #TrackRecord by Golin for LNER is about celebrating the regional identities of stops on a train line.

Add a sprinkle of creative gold dust and you have a reciepe for engaging, effective campaigns.

Trend 2: For purpose campaigns, speak to experts

Most of us will cringe when he recall dreadful 'purpose' campaigns from brands in recent history; the McDonald's UK 'dead dad' ad, Mastercard's 'goals for meals' and Kendall Jenner flirting with a hunky riot policeman for Pepsi spring to mind - we rounded up some of the worst offenders here.

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Successful purpose campaigns tend to have one thing in common - they seek the advice of experts, often charities, before moving ahead.

We can see this in several winners of this year's awards, including It's a Wonderful Line by The Romans for Virgin Trains (below) and Live Your Best Life with Type 1 by Allison+Partners for Dexcom.

The lesson is, even if you think you know about a certain issue, you probably don't, so go to the experts.

Trend 3: Influencer activity is best when it's not a 'bolt on'

There's nothing wrong with using influencers to simply amplify a campaign, but putting the influencer and their style and tone front and centre often leads to better results.

This is certainly the case with Renault Behind Car Doors by MSL (below) - the Best Influencer Marketing Campaign winner - with captures real family life in cars in a way that feels authentic and appropriate for the brand message.

Trend 4: Following the comedic zeitgeist (using data) pays dividends

To publicise the NOW TV Sky Cinema Pass and the summer blockbusters available, Fever could have placed a large version of almost anything related to a famous film by the Thames and probably had some success (albeit with likely accusations of unoriginal thinking from creative types).

The fact the large thing chosen was a dinosaur-sized model of Jeff Goldblum, reclining as per a famous scene-come-meme from Jurassic Park, points to a campaign in touch with the humour of its target audience. Its success is in no small part thanks to data that was used to inform the idea, showing that a combination of modern research methods and an aptitude for visual humour can be a winning formula.

Kudos also to Toilet Role of a Lifetime by The Romans for Virgin Trains, starring Eastenders actor Dean Gaffney in humorously self-deprecating form.

Trend 5: 'Consumer' thinking works anywhere

The idea that b2b or other non-consumer facing campaigns shouldn't ape some of the bold techniques of high-profile and successful consumer brands is nonsense. The multi-award winning Tudder 'Tinder for Cows' by Octopus Group for Hectare Agritech (below) uses humour and silliness in a creative and effective way, supported by data and technology, for an audience of farmers and their supply chains.

Creativity is creativity, regardless of the audience.

Trend 6: The 'trick-reveal' approach is still a winner

It can be a difficult campaign technique to pull off - announcing something out of the ordinary or ridiculous then later revealing it as a hoax.

W's L’Eau de Chris campaign for mental health charity CALM in 2017, which saw reality TV star Chris Hughes appearing to launch his own 'tear-infused' mineral water, is one successful example. Another is #Jenesupportepaslesbleus by Buzzman, which turned what appeared to be petulant trolling by a football manager into a powerful campaign targeting domestic violence for French charity Elle’s Imagine’nt.

At this year's awards we have another good case study: Cyber-Crime: a Campaign that Didn't Add Up by Weber Shandwick for HSBC UK (below) uses a shocking 'confession' from Countdown's Rachel Riley to highlight the issue of digital fraud.

Trick-reveal campaigns require bravery and careful planning, but when successful, can generate bags of intrigue and engagement.

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