Cannes review

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Tony Burgess-Webb
Chief Marketing Officer, H&K Worldwide

(adapted from the event blog,

“Welcome back to the real world”, said a colleague on my return to the office. Indeed, a few weeks later, Cannes Lions 2009 does have a distinctly other-worldly quality.

But it really happened, the PR business was really there – we are no longer newbies. So, after our first year in Cannesland, what lessons have we learned?

First, that Cannes Lions does have a very valuable part to play. The conference theme was ‘ignite your creativity’ and it certainly reinforced for me the critical importance of creativity to getting results .It’s not either/or. Not only agencies believe this. One of the world’s most results-focused companies, Procter & Gamble, picked up a large number of the top awards.

Second, the fact that ‘ad agencies’ won so many PR Lions should not surprise us. As others have commented, the ad world has had more than 50 years practice to figure out how Cannes works and how to win. But, also the advertising business has long placed more value on creativity and typically has larger collections of creative people. And, frankly, a good idea is a good idea.

Third, that the rigour of the award process is what makes the Cannes Lions awards special. Our two panel judges, MaryLee Sachs and Jimmy Tay, saw that first hand and we should all applaud the winners. The PR world should take note that there are genuine awards and then there are personal pension plans – our business has far too much of the latter.

Fourth, that creativity can be crowd-sourced. As Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter said in his session: ” Creativity is a renewable resource”. User generated content made a big impression this year with the Mofilm awards. Big brands using the world’s consumers to create ads to reach the world’s consumers will be a growth business.

Fifth, that while ‘digital’ was much talked about, many in the traditional advertising world still haven’t got the social media aspect. Biz Stone’s seminar drew a packed house at the beginning of the week when many delegates had still to arrive – as many as Eric Schmidt of Google did when the majority were in town – but hardly a single senior ad executive was there to hear him. So PR companies can feel confident that they have as much right as anyone to give advice to clients on social networks and social communications tools. But it must be informed advice and we all have a lot to learn.

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