PRWeek UK Awards: Creativity shines in darkest of times

Well, that was fun, wasn't it?

To everyone who ate, drank, gossiped, networked, laughed and danced the evening away at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House last night for the epic return of the PRWeek UK Awards – thank you. We hope you had a superb time.

As our heads clear today (let's give it a few hours), we can reflect on the astounding achievements of UK PR – celebrated across all the categories – during one of the industry's most challenging periods ever. In particular, how PR's creative prowess evolved and adapted so well to emerging trends.

Timings this year meant entries dated from the period of the first lockdown to not long before the lifting of most COVID-19 restrictions – in England, at least.

As we know, the early weeks of lockdown saw 'traditional' creative stunts and executions largely put on hold as focus switched to how companies could help in the crisis.

But creativity seeped back fairly quickly, even among campaigns that coincided with tough restrictions.

Take Taylor Herring's COVID-19 work for easyJet, in which kids were given superhero-inspired face masks for travelling. As air travel wound down, cabin crew in flight attire delivered in-flight snacks to people missing the experience. More seriously, furloughed crew were trained to administer coronavirus vaccines, and easyJet even offered help with home-schooling.

It's the mix of creative ideas with genuine offers to help society, relating directly to the brands, that elevated some of the best campaigns over the period.

PR's increasingly mature approach to influencer and celebrity tie-ins was also on display. Whether the collaborators were household names or micro-influencers with cult followings, the best campaigns were laser-focused on their target audiences and on outcomes.

Examples include Headland's work with 100 British TikTok creators to shift some people’s perceptions of the platform; Lenovo's activity, with 3 Monkeys Zeno, to find 10 fearless women breaking gender norms; and Golin's work with Cadbury, starring the late Captain Sir Thomas Moore, which addressed loneliness among older people.

Some of the best campaigns were pure fun, too. Frank's work to make Weetabix topped with baked beans a viral hit deserves a doffing of the cap.

Meanwhile, PR teams showed their skills at using creative thinking to make serious points. The Romans' campaign for Lloyd’s Register, for example, with its creative twists on classic paintings to emphasise maritime pollution; or Taylor Herring's 'Scam Sonnets' for Santander, which used poetry to shine the light on fraud. Kudos also to W's Grenfell FC campaign, in which branded football shirts were sold to raise money for a hugely worthwhile cause.

This brings us to the biggest winner of the night. Engine MHP + Mischief's #LongLiveThePrince – which added murdered Queens Park Rangers Under-16s player Kiyan Prince to the full QPR squad in the video game FIFA 21 – was a comms masterstroke. It generated about 1,000 pieces of coverage and sent donations to the Kiyan Prince Foundation soaring.

Results like that should make us all proud to raise a glass to this wonderful industry. See you next year.

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