Digital & Social Media

Cannes PR Lions 2015: Looking Back on New PR’s Bright Future


Cannes PR Lions 2015: Looking Back on New PR’s Bright Future

This is PR’s time. Since its debut at Cannes Lions in 2009, the discipline has evolved its soft power into an undeniable force for change. New PR is demonstrating its full, channel-agnostic forte for driving conversation and conversion. Rising fast in a world that rewards real-time creativity, transparency and authenticity more than ever before. Wielding paid media, analytics and irresistible video content with deft and ease. The industry has expanded its signature influence dramatically in a socially centric world.

PR creativity made 2015 truly a breakthrough year at Cannes. For the first time in the PR Lions:

  • Entries hit an historic 2,000 high following a year when submissions grew 43%
  • A record-setting half of all entries came from PR and non-ad agencies (up from approximately 30% in 2013 and 40% in 2014)
  • Of 79 winners (Gold/Bronze/Silver), more than half (43) — twice as many as last year’s 21 — were led by PR agencies or featured PR agencies in integrated teams
  • Of the 17 Gold winners, 10 featured PR agencies as the entrant or part of integrated teams, and of these half were PR agency led
  • Three of the seven Grand Prix winners featured PR agencies in collaboration
  • Most winners (25 of 79) and Golds (7) were entered from the U.S.
  • The winners’ circle included debuts from countries as diverse as Republic of Georgia, Macedonia, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

Our jury – 21 women and men from 20 different countries and agencies* – recognized spectacular evidence of creativity and sophistication in the work submitted, surpassing any year before it. We didn’t look for originality alone: it was the price of admission. Beyond that, we set criteria based on what we believe constitutes New PR in action today:

  1. First and foremost: Fresh, ingenious CREATIVITY.
  2. Earned trust through influence with authenticity.
  3. Deliberately prioritized PR in the strategic planning process. PR by design, not consequence.
  4. Reputation built with staying power that makes a lasting impact. Valuing the big and long idea.
  5. Organic engagement beyond shares and likes.
  6. Measured CHANGE – in behaviors, conversations, lives, minds, society.
  7. Business AND societal outcomes.

Our jury tested every campaign with the question, “Why did it matter?”.

Here are some of the answers that the Gold winners demonstrated brilliantly:

  • Social experiments that revealed meaningful human truths designed to break norms, have the potential to touch m/billions, and endure for generations, elevating brands to a higher place in life. This is how true change happens.

Always #LikeAGirl: Turning an Insult Into a Confidence Movement / P&G (MSLGROUP NY/Leo Burnett Toronto)

  • Technology has democratized creativity so that campaigns can be co-created with people in all corners of the world. Connecting culturally, respecting local preferences and inspiring spontaneous co-creation across borders can make a material economic impact and be immortalized on maps and in minds for years to come.

Great Chinese Names for Great Britain/VisitBritain (Ogilvy PR Beijing)

The Ice Bucket Challenge/ALS Association (Porter Novelli NY)

  • More important than counting the people reached, is resonating with the people who count. Re-igniting loyalty in an intimate, interactive way that demonstrates deep understanding of a fan base’s hot buttons, keeps the love alive and makes it stronger.

Photoshop Murder Mystery/Adobe (Edelman San Francisco)

Ashes / Campofrio (McCann Madrid)

  • A world in which news morphs at Tweet speed demands a fleet-footed response that not only contains an issue but capitalizes on it by using social velocity to big-time, real-time advantage.

#TECHNOLOGYANDSTUFF: Rapid Integration Turns PR Crisis into Social Currency (FleishmanHillard)

  • When a brand loses its customer base in a rising tide of changing lifestyles, innovation is the key to refreshing relevance and growing back market, in this case by riding the wave of wearable tech to help work/life balance.

True Wetsuits/Quiksilver Japan (TBWA\Hakuhodo Tokyo)

  • People are infinitely more accessible today, but also more distracted than ever. The trick to getting people in the rush hour of their lives to stop … and look twice … for what is not there … can be a clever call to action that moves people to provide what’s missing.

The RGB News/Antena 1 – Observator (GEOMETRY GLOBAL Bucharest)

  • Intensifying debate around age-old issues often draws seemingly intractable opinions on both sides, hardened by constant filtering for like-minded perspectives, leaving little room for new views. Social experiments that highlight haunting grass root realities and reactions can ambush the conversation to open minds for change.

The Gun Shop/States United to Prevent Gun Violence (Grey NY/Grey Activation & PR NY)

Groceries Not Guns / Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (Grey Canada)

  • An ingenious twist on creative disruption: High jacking events to intercept their momentum and leverage a captive audience in a different direction.

Nazis Against Nazis – Germany’s Most Involuntary Walk/ZDK Gesellschaft Demokratische Kultur (GGH LOWE Hamburg / GRABARZ & PARTNER Hamburg)

Interception / Volvo (Grey NY/Waggener Edstrom NY)

  • A brand tells its story best through real people with challenges that it uniquely solves, even in the remotest places. Touching, well-articulated “storyfication” of a need is capable of rallying active engagement by many eager to help fill it, while stoking goodwill, trust and impact for the brand behind it.

70 Guardians of Winter / Skoda Spain (Proximity Barcelona)

  • Sometimes, all it takes to make a big statement about what a brand stands for, and stands up for, is a simple memorable truth, well told, well shared, wrapped in a rainbow. Yes it’s true: “We’re all the same on the inside”.

Proud Whopper/ Burger King (entered by DAVID Miami with support from Alison Brod PR)

  • The perfect combination of creativity, technology, and relevant purpose can become the trifecta for building deep trust and reputation in a red ocean of competition for attention.

Clever Buoy/Optus (Fuel Communications Sydney/M&C Saatchi Sydney)

A big year for PR signals a bright future of influence and opportunity. Today’s world order prioritizes live response, authenticity, transparency and trust. PR is authentic by nature, always works in real time, and earned trust from credibility is its long-time lodestar. Power is tilting in PR’s favor.

Our ability to maximize the moment comes down to creative conviction. Because creativity is the ultimate change agent, Cannes Lions deserves credit for fueling acceleration of the PR industry now and in the future.

It is a wholly rewarding, transformative experience to participate in the Lions. If you’re already involved, double down. If not, dive in because it will definitely change you and inspire your business in ways you won’t know unless you’re there.

Some categories in PR’s sweet spot were under-weight in terms of entries, such as internal communications, crisis and issues management, and surprisingly, media relations. This says that the PR world is not submitting all of its best work. Not just in these categories, but across the board. Ground-breaking ideas come from everywhere and anywhere – agencies big and small, public and independent, and markets developed and emerging. Remember, it just takes one magnificent idea to win big in Cannes.

Here’s to the amazing talent behind all of the ideas that contributed to the best industry showing in the history of the PR Lions. The celebration of creativity is the future of our business. We must prioritize it, operationalize it, and cultivate it every day. That’s how real change happens.

What a truly exciting time to be in PR. The best is yet to come.

2015 PR Lions Jury


Asia Pacific / China — Lynne Anne Davis, FleishmanHillard
Australia — Ben Shipley, Hill & Knowlton Strategies
Argentina — Gabriela Korovsky, Urban Communication Group
Belgium — Melvin Koopmans, Oona Benelux
Brazil — Kiki Moretti, In Press Porter Novelli
Colombia – Keka Palacio, Babel Group
France — Isabelle Wolf, Kingcom
Germany — Jan Dirk Kemming, Weber Shandwick
India – Paresh Chaudhry, Madison PR
Israel — Guy Weinberger, SMG – Sheetrit Media Group
Italy — Nicola Rovetta, Golin
Japan – Koichiro Shima, Hakuhodo Kettle
New Zealand — Trish Sherson, Sherson Wills
Norway — Eva Sannum, Geelmuyden Kiese
Poland — Sebastian Stępak, MSL
Portugal — Catarina Vasconcelos, LPM Comunicação
Spain — Ana de Castro Huerta, Havas PR & Havas Sport & Entertainment
Sweden — Karin Schollin, Prime
UK — Amanda Pierce, Burson-Marsteller
USA — Jennifer Cohan, Edelman
Global — Stuart Smith, Ogilvy PR


2015 Cannes PR Lions Jury formal (2)


About the author

Lynne Anne Davis

As regional president, Lynne Anne Davis oversees FleishmanHillard’s fast-growing, award-winning Asia Pacific network of 18 owned offices and three brands in 10 countries. She is a sought-after speaker and commentator on industry issues, and passionate advocate of Shared Value. Lynne Anne was PR Jury President in the 2015 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. In 2013, she was named “Global Women’s Champion” by NAFE and received The Holmes Report’s “Individual Achievement Award”. She was voted as one of “Asia’s Most Admired Agency Leaders,” and debuted on PRWeek’s Power List in 2014. Lynne Anne led establishment of the firm’s Global China Practice, including an innovative China Masters Exchange to fast-track top Mandarin-speaking graduates in the West before transferring to FleishmanHillard’s Greater China operations.

A FleishmanHillard employee.