Winning at Cannes – an Interview with Tom Beckman, Prime PR


Swedish agency Prime has received more Cannes Lions awards than any PR agency since the creation of PR Lions in 2009. Cannes Lions interviews Tom Beckman, Executive Creative Director and Senior Partner of Prime PR, about what it’s like to win and the affect on the agency.
Tell us about the foundations of Prime; where do the agency’s roots lie? Our origin traces back to American political campaigning in the 90's. That was probably the real birth of the channel agnostic approach – long before social media or even the internet. To build and activate a universe of communication assets under one common frame story is still a valid principle for us. What is the philosophy of the agency? Communications should have a value in itself beyond the product, idea or message its promotion. We try to create value that generates awareness – not create awareness that generates value. How did you first learn about the Cannes Lions Festival? The founder of legendary ad agency Forsman Bodenfors took us there. He introduced us to the festival and how to use the insights from the festival to grow our business. And we’ve been there ever since. For our delegates it’s all work and (almost) no play – see all the seminars, look at all the case reels, and bring home the insights. When did you know you were ready to enter? We started to compare our work with the best work out there from all agencies, not just PR agencies. And the only way to do that is start building your own case videos. We didn’t know if we were ready when we entered the first time – I guess you must just start somewhere and build from your experiences and learnings. Tell us about the experience of winning your first Lion. A shortlist is really a remarkable achievement. In fact – the way I evaluate our performance is the number of shortlists divided by the number of different campaigns entered (not multiple entries of the same campaign). That gives you a good idea of the strength of your agency. To win a Gold – that’s special of course. People don’t realize how big the audience actually is on that stage – it’s insane. How do you choose the work to enter into Cannes? Sometimes the clients take the initiative, sometimes it’s the team. Regardless we make sure that the work can represent us and our clients. Entering in the right category is important of course. The fact that a good case fits in a lot of categories proves how integrated the industry is today. Since first entering in 2010 Prime has been awarded 14 PR Lions alone – what impact has this had on your business? It has given us access to pitches we didn’t get have before. And going head to head with ad agencies forced us to up our game even more. It has led to more CMO budgets and to a ticket to play on an international arena. How did winning influence the culture of your team? It has changed the way clients look at us obviously. But more importantly it has created an internal culture of living up to our own requirements and expectations. We now benchmark with the best – and that’s a painful but rewarding relationship to your own work. It has helped us break free from limiting industry definitions. What advice would you give PR agencies looking to enter work into PR Lions? Cannes Lions is about ideas. Make sure your unique idea comes through. And then validate the relevance of that idea through engagement from stakeholders and media. Getting a lot of clippings is not enough – all decent campaigns in Cannes have that. Instead make sure to focus on the problem and the solution – what did you solve and why was it important? And show how the idea came to life and became a part of society or discussion.  

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