7 Things we Learned in Cannes

June 28, 2017

by Sophie Scott

Unless you’ve been on social media lockdown, you’ll know that a large delegation of FleishmanHillard (FH) representatives took to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity last week.

Why? For a number of reasons: to fly the FH flag, collect five awards, debate some issues, seek clear guidance on achieving winning work, host panels, interacted with clients, find new business, source creative partners and spend 18-hour days making ourselves and our brand even stronger, better, more networked and more CREATIVE than ever before.

It was an investment which truly reflects this agency’s focus on winning and delivering award-winning creative work that drives positive change for our clients around the world.

So what did we learn?


  1. Brilliance comes from simplicity

The Global Director of Social at Lego says he’s “just a toys salesman”. And Ira Glass taught us that sometimes the best storytelling involves no visuals at all, just audio. In essence, keep it real.


Oftentimes the simple idea or insight isn’t the only thing that stops the judges in their tracks either. Flawless execution is critical too. For a masterclass in scriptwriting, voice over perfection, cinematography and sound, watch this.


You also wouldn’t believe how many companies – even at Cannes – think it’s appropriate to drone on about themselves and what they sell and do. The more we can help our clients avoid this, the better.


  1. Do good business by doing good

According to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, in an age where people no longer believe what politicians or traditional media say, brands now have to be the voice of cohesion, togetherness and good. By 2 to 1, people believe that brands can make more social change than government. Which basically means WE are that voice. No pressure then.


Increasingly, for big awards, it’s about business interest coupling with societal interest – just look at the Gold Winners for inspiration. Diversity, flexibility and empathy were the themes ‘du jour’ – forget VR and AR, this year was all about people causes.


Yet while social issues like gender inequality proved fruitful for some (see the Fearless Girl campaign winner, for example), campaigns centering on political or societal issues without depth were quickly shown short-shrift. In short, we have to get this right to be credible and authentic.


  1. Creativity is a way of life

According to Bjarke Ingels, starchitect and founder of B.I.G Architects in Denmark, “Creativity is for amateurs – professionals just go to work”. So don’t wait for a calendar reminder to tell you it’s time to be creative, just bring creative thinking to everything you do.


As part of the delegation, we also learned the full extent of our amazing network of creatives across the FH globe. You’ll find colleagues in Brussels, Dallas, DC, Dubai, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, New York, Seoul, St Louis and Tokyo who are always ready to help you find a deeper insight or inspiration. We can literally just WhatsApp them. That is an incredible opportunity for us to tap into.


  1. PR can make stuff too

Our discipline should be bolder in driving product innovation into our clients’ business. We saw countless brilliant campaigns where the initial idea was for the client to actually MAKE something. There was a lot of buzz around Savlon Chalk to help boost hygiene in schools in under-privileged areas. And the Gilette Assisted Care shaver was a team favourite.


But product development doesn’t have to be complex either. Just check out the immunity charm campaign that has radically enhanced immunization rates in Afghanistan as an example of brilliant simplicity.


  1. Cultural Cross-overs

One of the best ways we can help clients boost their creative thinking is through cross-overs – as long as they make sense for all parties involved. Eclectic people mashing ideas and approaches together is a great way to spark change and opportunity. That’s how we ended up running a couple of really inspirational panels at Cannes with Young Guru, the legendary audio engineer behind artists like Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and Beyoncé, with major clients AT&T and Philips.


  1. Technology is prevalent, but no one’s really cracked it… yet

Lots of people were talking about the importance of telling stories that can scale, be consistent, adaptable and right for all the current, new and upcoming platforms – now and in the next five years. However it feels like no one has the answer just yet.


Though they’ll tell you differently, no one’s really cracked AI, for example. In fact, the view from many was that AI isn’t going to be creative any time soon… But it can provide untold inspiration for creatives, help us tap into the zeitgeist, and evaluate whether creative concepts will hit the mark.


VR is another interesting one. It is potentially going to require non-linear storytelling which creates a new conundrum for brands. If our audience can go wherever they want, will we guide them or let them explore freely?


  1. What makes a winner?

While this was a better year for communications agencies like ours, with FH winning FIVE awards!, there were still things missing from the industry at large. For 2018, the jury members urged agencies to consider: more careful category selection; and more FMCG, B2B and crisis work. In addition, innovative measurement is key – whether it’s meeting a business need or creating social change, we need to show the value of our work.


The PR Lions Jury went through a bit of a refresh this year, focusing more on the power of earned to distinguish the category from other creative disciplines and channels. So while we need to clearly demonstrate the value of our integrated campaigns, don’t forget to focus on the media results too.


As stated above, cultural relevance is important – entries that clearly explained local, societal and cultural nuances to a diverse, global jury had a stronger chance of success.


In terms of practical requirements: straightforward yet intimate insights led to the most successful work, there must be a case film and the case film must be clear and, yes, you guessed it, simple.


All the successful entries are readily available online but, in terms of the work that we might want to extract inspiration from, Release the Pressure, Fearless Girl and Like My Addiction all connected deeply with us. Enjoy!