- True Wetsuits, entered by TBWA/Hakuhodo in Japan, seemed to some observers to be a new product introduction that—because the product itself was so innovative—generated a large volume of media coverage. Was the creativity in the product itself, or in the communications campaign? If the latter, was this just a clever ad campaign amplified by PR?
- Similarly, Proud Whopper, entered by David Miami (with support from Alison Brod PR), appeared to some to be not much more than a cool packaging idea—wrapping the Whopper in rainbow colors to celebrate gay pride. On the other hand, it was a packaging idea that clearly impacted the relationship between the company and the LGBT community and earned the trust of many within that community.
- Even The Ice Bucket Challenge, which almost everyone agrees was a terrific concept and a powerful popular movement, raised questions. Did the award recognize the basic idea, and was it really PR? Did it fundamentally change the relationship between the ALS Society and its stakeholders, or was it entirely transactional. Was the PR element primarily about generating media coverage for a social media phenomenon?
Written by Paul Holmes @paulholmespr A question of definitions, a time to stop sounding so defensive, and reasons to really celebrate creativity. The morning after the presentation of this year’s Cannes Public Relations Lions, The Holmes Report and Ogilvy Public Relations hosted a breakfast meeting—open to all attendees at this year’s festival—to discuss the winning campaigns and the PR industry’s performance. What did we learn from the discussion? Definitions are important—or maybe they don’t matter at all Public relations is notoriously difficult to define. It can mean anything from (the broadest, and our favored definition) anything that influences or impacts the relationship between an organization and any of the people with whom it interacts. It can mean getting coverage in the media—the definition many detractors and even some within the profession prefer (“we do so much more than just PR.”) By the first definition, almost everything on show at Cannes this week was public relations (something the PR Council hints at with its #itsallpr hashtag). In fact, by the first definition all of marketing is just a subset of public relations: if PR is managing the relationship with everyone, marketing is the much smaller task of managing the relationship with consumers. The definition that Cannes uses is, in fact, much closer to the former than the latter: “The definition of PR for the purpose of Cannes Lions is the creative use of reputation management by the building and preservation of trust and understanding between individuals, businesses or organisations and their publics/audiences.” By this definition, a 30-second television commercial—if it built or preserved trust and understanding—would presumably be eligible for the PR category. So, by the way, would a smart business decision. The CVS Quits campaign, which won Platinum at the SABRE Awards in New York but was nowhere to be seen among the 79 PR winners at Cannes, is the perfect example of a change in corporate policy that built trust between an organization and its publics. So clearly there is more to it than that. PR jury president Lynne-Anne Davis, in an interview with Arun Sudhaman, explained what the jury was focused on: “Creativity, innovation, freshness and ingenuity…. Earned trust through influence powered by authenticity…. Change. Change could be behavioral, or change in conversations, in minds, in lives, in societies, in laws…. And then ultimately we asked the question, ‘Why does this work matter?’” Those are all excellent criteria for selecting award-worthy work, but none of them would exclude either of the examples—the hypothetical 30-second TV spot of the smart business decision—above. And those criteria leave room for debate about several of the winners, and just how big a role PR played in making them successful. That it leads to a very lively debate about whether the winning campaigns were examples of great campaigns (some of them, perhaps, made a little bit better by sprinkling on some PR) or examples of truly great PR. “If you are on a jury, you want good work to win, regardless of whether it’s a good fit for the category,” explained Rory Sutherland, vice chairman of Ogilvy Group UK. “There’s a willingness to blur the line to see that happen.” The answer to whether the line is too blurry is in many cases very much in the eye of the beholder: