Where were the PR shops in the PR Lions?

By Brian Morrissey


All the trends point to public relations, that redheaded stepchild, growing up into a critical part of the marketing world. But you wouldn't know it by looking at the PR Lions winners. By my count, advertising, digital and other non-PR shops won 27 of the 42 gold and silver Lions awarded. (The full list will be posted Tuesday at CannesLions.com.) An ad agency, TBWA\Chiat\Day, also took top honors in the category for Gatorade's "Replay" campaign. Ad agencies dominated most of the awards, in fact. Paul Taafe, CEO of Hill & Knowlton and PR jury chair, said he was disappointed that more of the 575 entries came from agencies rooted in disciplines other than PR. He believes the heavy preponderance of non-PR agencies was a "kick in the bum" for the PR world and was "making a statement" in the struggle between PR and advertising over who owns social media.

  Perhaps a more practical explanation is that PR agencies don't have a long tradition in Cannes or know the ins and outs of the process, such as the art of the entry video. "There was a substantial difference in quality of the PR entries and quality from advertising agencies," Taafe said. TBWA's effort, he said, exemplified how a "PR-centric" campaign can achieve big results by spurring "authentic conversations." The only drawback, in Taafe's view: "I just wish it had been done by a PR agency." Judges predicted that PR agencies will learn the ropes of what plays well, and also won't be so content while shops from other disciplines steal their thunder.