Postcard from Cannes: There were far fewer PR people here than last year


It’s become a bit of a habit that I attach to my Postcard From Cannes a rather jolly photograph of me toasting the event with a glass of rosé. Well not this year. 

Because I don’t think there’s much to toast. 

"We have a problem with Cannes. And that means Cannes has a problem too."

And I say that will all due deference to the winners -as they board their flights home from Nice, they will feel justifiably proud of their achievement. And nothing I write below diminishes those achievements in any way -quite the opposite. 

But here’s the truth. 

We have a problem with Cannes. And that means Cannes has a problem too. 

There were far fewer PR people here than last year. Far fewer than when I first came here, five years ago. Familiar faces like Omnicom’s Gallagher; Golin’s Neil; Ketchum’s Flaherty; and even PRMoment’s Smith were absent. Those absences say something. 

The decision not to award a Bronze Young Lion was strange; insulting; self-defeating. I spoke with the judges last night, and while I understand their perspective I still disagree with their judgement. It was, as I tweeted, a slap in the face for the thirty plus national teams who came here at considerable expense of billable time, air fares, hotel accommodation. A bad call. 

The results last night were equally bad for our industry. Let’s not say ‘disappointing’. Let’s say bad. Very few winners. Advertising companies still dominating our space. 

"Cannes needs to lower its prices"

Why?

I’d highlight two big issues. The first is cost. It costs a lot to enter, and a lot to be here. That in itself is an issue for many. In fact for the majority of PR agencies I know. For so long as costs are so high, the  number of pr entries will remain so low. 

Stuart Smith made a great point to me yesterday - in year one of the PR Lions there were 431 entries in total. 28% of them were from PR agencies. Ten years on, there were 2,100 entries. Only 10% of them were from PR agencies. We are simply being outgunned. 

Cannes needs to lower its prices. And then more PR agencies need to compete. 

Secondly, the format. 

The showreel element inevitably makes the playing field uneven. This is how Dynamo’s Pete Bowles put it on Twitter: 

“Time to dump the showreel element? Say a small agency works on a brilliant but modest campaign and then entry fee is £1k + a showreel (let’s say £2k min) when up against Ad firms that *have* a showreel already, makes these awards a total loss leader for professional PRs.”

He’s right. Cannes needs to change that too. In a digital age, it’s a curious anachronism. 

I remain an advocate of Cannes. Next year, ICCO will be back running the House Of PR, and  promoting the Young Lions competition. PRCA UK will run the UK Young Lions ‘round’, and pay for the winners to attend and compete. PRCA MENA will do likewise for its practitioners. 

Cannes remains the key point at which we celebrate creativity in the creative industries. We need to be here in greater numbers. And we will encourage our members to do so. But Cannes need to itself be creative. And to embrace change. 

Article written by PRCA director general Francis Ingham

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