Established around 60 years ago, Cannes Lions is the world’s biggest festival and awards programme for the creative and marketing communications, entertainment, design and tech industries. When we heard they’d be announcing some big changes, we were intrigued to know what was changing and why so we went to find out.
Co-organised with the PRCA and held in the amazing offices of Ogilvy PR – with its stunning panoramic view of central London – the event was hosted by Fiorenza Plinio, head of business development at Cannes Lions, who ran through the big changes that everyone was waiting to hear.
The worlds of PR, advertising and marketing must constantly change to stay relevant. Cannes Lions must change with them to reflect the creative communication industry properly, she said.
For agencies thinking of entering the awards, it will come as a relief to learn that the 120 old sub-categories have been removed, so the process of applying has been greatly simplified. Instead, the awards are split between nine ‘tracks’, within which you’ll find all the award categories. So, for example, the PR Lions fall within the Reach track as they focus on building engagement and influence.
One thing that particularly impressed me was the new Sustainable Development Goals Lions. As you may have heard, the United Nations introduced 17 Sustainable Goals in 2017 to tackle world issues such as poverty, gender inequality and climate changes. The Cannes Lions have introduced the same categories to encourage brands and agencies to raise awareness about them – and all fees paid for these entries will be donated to the UN to support their work in these areas.
As the event was co-organised by PRCA, there was a particular focus on the PR Lions. Fiorenza called PR “the hottest industry” and said it stands for building engagement. She said the three most important things for a PR campaign are purpose, brand value and offline content that goes viral. She cited the “Fearless Girl” statue in Manhattan, which she described as a simple and brave, but effective idea. She encouraged more PR agencies to enter the Cannes Lions Awards because, she said, creativity in PR matters and should be celebrated. Here at Red Setter, we couldn’t agree more – creativity in PR really does matter and we strive to include it in everything we do for our clients.
During the Q&A session, this year’s head of the PR Lions Jury, Stuart Smith, global CEO of Ogilvy PR, and director of social media at Hill + Knowlton, Candace Kuss, discussed the future of PR. No one really knows which way the wind is going to blow or how the industry will change but Stuart said something that was music to my ears: “PR should be part of the whole creative process, from gathering insights and analysing, through creating the strategy, to executing the campaign.”
The title of this event at the PRCA Creative Group event intrigued me. Are women held back in PR? After all, I work in a PR agency where our MD is a woman, our Head of PR is a woman. It's a predominantly female organisation, and a quick straw poll in the office before I left revealed that none of us feels held back.
It turns out we’re unusual. Harriet Minter, journalist and a speaker on women’s rights, kicked off the session with a striking fact: women fill 70% of the entry-level positions in PR, but only 12% of the creative director positions. Lotte Jones, Creative Director at Teneo Blue Rubicon, suggested that PR is a relatively new industry, therefore there are not many women role-models yet. She also added that explicitly in the creative sector, women are not encouraged to take risks with their ideas as much as men. And in the end, success comes from taking risks.
Mentoring and peer coaching are good ideas to bring more women in the creative industry explained Rebecca Grant, UK Managing Director at Cohn & Wolfe, one of WPP’s best-performing agencies. She advised the audience to hire on potential, not on experience. In her view, women are less likely to push themselves and they only take a job if they “tick all boxes". Kat Thomas, founder & Global Executive Creative Director of One Green Bean, recommended women to stop calculating risks, but actually, take them: “What’s the worst that can happen?”.
It was a wide-ranging debate that covered a host of questions such as: Is it simply that PR is a relatively new industry? Do we just wait for women to make their way through their careers and it will all even out in time? Or do women need to be encouraged to take more risks? Do companies need to encourage women to apply for jobs that they might worry they’re under-qualified for? Would mentoring and peer coaching help? Do women need to rethink their perceptions of ambition, and stop being afraid to ask for promotions and pay rises?
The panel agreed that women should not “act like men” to fit in, but they should be aware of the environment and stay true to themselves. Rebecca Grant finished the discussion by saying that it is more important to foster a creative culture within the company than having ‘creative’ in the titles.
It was a fascinating and inspiring debate. My favourite piece of advice from the night was to “Have fun and just add creativity to everything you do.” It’s an approach I try to adopt in my life and that I see happening every day in my work at Red Setter.
The third session was Technical SEO. The three speakers were Peter Nikolow, Dominic Woodman and Dawn Anderson. They gave us few pieces of advice on database optimisation, information architecture and so-called “URL – cruft”. Mrs Anderson explained that everything stays on the web, so we need to be careful about our links and content.
The last session, and personally my favourite, was about Strategy. It started with Olga Andrienko and her presentation about agile marketing. She said that companies should embrace change instead of adapt to it. Businesses which empower employees are more successful. Leaders should explain “what” to do, but not “how”. By giving the employees freedom on how to fulfil a certain task, they feel more responsible for it, and they will put more effort into it. Of course, there are challenges to agile marketing. For example, proactive members suffer from those who are not involved enough. Therefore, managers should have company meetings, where everyone feels like an important part of the team and shares their ideas.
The second speaker was Andi Jarvis. He presented the seven questions we need to ask before we start digital marketing. Companies should answer “What do we do” so they know what they offer to the public. A strapline that people remember is a good idea. As said before, know your audience. The general public does not exist. Also, explore how it is done in the industry. To stand out from the crowd, promote yourself differently. Analyse what skills people have and work with them. Except for the capital and what is it worth to your business, know what stories you can tell about your company.
The last speaker was Chris Simmance who talked about good SEO strategy. Many people confuse strategy with goal-setting or individual activities like writing an article. However, a strategy is having a clear result in mind and plan a coherent set of actions to achieve it. We should not rush things through without appropriately diagnose the challenges.
The conference finished with a special guest from Google – Garry Illyes. He answered several questions about link building, content marketing and Google in general. However, he did not reveal any secrets about upcoming projects.
Although I did not manage to attend all sessions, I believe all speakers were amazing. I had a great experience, and I am looking forward to Brighton SEO 2018.
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