June 21, 2021

How did the top global PR campaigns of the last 12 months navigate sensibility amidst COVID?

by Aalastair Sibley in News

Insights from 2021 Cannes Lions PR Judge and Managing Director at Red Havas UK, Rachael Sansom

You can imagine my joy in January of 2020 when it was first proposed that I may be a Cannes Lions judge. Having trodden the festival many times previously, with my then “partner in creative crime,” Mark Parkins (now CD at Cow), the prospect of a week at the festival with the added kicker of actually being a judge was one to tick off the bucket list.

And yet, here we are in June of 2021 – no sun, sea or rose in my hand, but nonetheless, I’m still feeling privileged to be on the Cannes Lions PR Awarding Jury, led by our fearless and brilliant madam chair, (as she has become affectionately known) Gail Heimann.

I write this before the shortlist of awards are announced, so let me apologise as no work has been named, but I thought I’d fill you in on some of the key trends we are seeing this year – a year like no other we’ve had before:  

  • Pandemic – what pandemic?

While of course we have seen work directly linked to the pandemic, and obviously created and conceptualised as a result of it, the majority of entries were not a reaction to it. Having said this, I do think that due to the pandemic there was increased sensitivity in much of the work submitted this year, in terms of how it was executed or the way it talked about the issue it was dealing with. This heightened sensibility gave much of the work more elegance – something to be lauded and encouraged.

  • The never-ending march of technology

Next, a theme we see at Cannes every year; but once again, some of the best work has cleverly used tech innovation. Deep fakes have been utilised in multiple campaigns; in the best cases as a genuine creative force for good and at its worst as an attention-grabbing stunt. We as an industry will have to grapple with how best we use this particular technology moving forward, especially in the context of much of the “fakery” the industry already has to deal with in terms of fake news and fake influencers.

  • Purpose rules all

As you would expect the number of cases without a purpose-led core could probably be counted on one hand. What was encouraging was the lack of ‘purpose washing’ in the entries we saw. Brands, in particular, seem to have finally realised that unless you are walking the walk, don’t talk the talk.

  • Channel innovation shines

Forget earned, owned and paid; some of the best work in the last year used gaming and sports as the medium rather than just the message. Open world gaming platforms, in particular, have provided a backdrop for innovative and exciting work – not just in the brand space, but for NGOs who have brought some really important issues creatively to the table by using this highly impactful channel.

  • Equality matters

Given the events in the world of the last 18 months, again, it was very encouraging to see issues around equality in all its forms. It was clearly high on the creative agenda and generally executed in a way that really brought equality issues to the fore with maximum impact and minimum trivialisation.

  • Metrics and measurement need our attention 

My last observation is the perennial watch out, while every case in the PR category has professionally communicated the results and impact, the consistent problem of lack of consistency in metrics for earned work is clear. A consistent universally adopted statement of metrics and therefore impact has always been our industry’s greatest challenge and continues to be so. Having this would only help elevate the performance of our industry’s best work.

First appeared – PRWeek UK