Everyone enjoys a good win, but when it comes to the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, winning comes with bigger implications. Winning builds your brand or agency’s reputation within the larger industry, positioning you as a leader. And as a result, new partnerships, collaborations, and talent will find you. I had the pleasure of serving as PR Jury President at this year’s festival and sat down with two of my fellow jurors from Edelman—Felicitas Olschewski, head of digital across EMEA, who served on the Entertainment for Sport Jury and Pully Chau, president of our Greater China operations, who served on the GLASS jury, which recognizes culture-shifting creativity. Together, we’re outlining the winning trends that creative teams should start implementing now in order to win at next year’s festival, here are our takeaways:  

  1. Stand for Something: There’s sometimes trepidation whenever a new issue arises, over how far to lean into it. How far to extend yourself and your brand. At Edelman, we counsel that it will always come down to your authenticity in the space—do you have the right to speak to this issue? Whether it’s that issue or another, what we saw in this year’s entries is the power that comes through when brands stand for something. 

    People will reward you with advocacy and sales and activation. There’s a consumer expectation that you’re not just sitting on the sideline, that you’re leaning in and doing something. Often there’s a misconception that by standing for something or being purpose driven, you can’t also be creating commerce, but as you’ll see below that’s clearly not true.

  2. Action in a Meaningful Way with Tangible Results/Impact: Five years ago at Cannes, we saw work win that was making commitments, and claims around sustainability goals. Today, that’s no longer enough – people want to see internal efforts, changes to the supply chain, ultimately creating action that is creating lasting impact and change. The work that won this year created action in a meaningful way.

    To this point, Felicitas’ Entertainment for Sport jury was focused on the message their winning selection would send to the rest of the industry. It wasn’t enough for a campaign to point out a problem, brands needed to provide an action that created behavior change, marrying impact on people with impact on business. One such case (and the winner of the Grand Prix) was Nike Sync, a program that helps female athletes create 4-week training cycles that syncs with their menstrual cycle, the insight being that when you work with your cycle, instead of against it, you have an athletic advantage. Felicitas also commented that it was plain business sense, “When you consider that half the world’s population is female, and you’re creating a diversified training cycle, with yoga, running, HIIT, and strength training...that is a whole new wardrobe. It’s also relevant across an entire women’s lifecycle from age 12 through to menopause.”

    “We wanted to send a forward-looking signal, that this is the new kind of way of thinking, and this is the power of sport, and this is how modern marketing should be done,” she said.  
  3. Be Modern in How you Solve, Express and Execute: Every winning program this year was complex and nuanced, but one simple story woven throughout every touchpoint. Many programs bridged off and on-lines worlds. Teams need to bring that experience and be surprising. A lot of the work elicits a ‘wow’ reaction. 
  4. PR is the Next Trend: You might roll your eyes at this one, but I’m not just saying this because I was the PR Jury President or because I work at Edelman. When you think about attracting attention in today’s landscape, earned is simply the most efficient way. There is so much content being put out into the world every day on so many platforms that it would take incredibly large budgets to buy your way into attracting attention. That’s why more brands and companies are investing in creativity to earn their way into people’s minds and hearts. That’s PR, and that’s why all the best work at Cannes has people talking about it—they earned the talk value. 

    One of Pully’s most beloved cases from the GLASS jury was Morning After Island, a wooden platform that was built outside of Honduras’ jurisdiction in international waters in order to safely and legally administer the morning after pill. The pill is legally banned in Honduras, the only Latin American country to do so, and women can face up to six years in prison for taking the pill. The campaign received wide-spread media attention, and the President of Honduras took notice, pledging to draft a new law that would legalize the pill.

    This trend was particularly prevalent in the GLASS jury. Pully shared with us that “PR is in every single winning case; it’s all about earned. Some of the campaigns, including the Grand Prix, only have earned media, no paid media at all.” 

Everyone left Cannes feeling charged up, full of bravery to take on the big challenge. So, now what do we do with all that bravery and turn it into action? I will leave you with these three suggestions: 

  • Let’s create momentum within our organization. Pick one project, one brand with the opportunity and relevancy to solve a problem today and dive in. Once others see the start of something special, they’ll want to get involved and all of the sudden you have momentum. 
  • Let’s have the conversation. The magic of jury room are those deep conversations, arguing and pushing, and ultimately it ends up being so good for the work. Let’s embrace the spirit of building. Let’s co-create instead of criticize. It’s easy to rattle off what about an idea doesn’t work, but what if we co-created together instead to make it better?
  • Let’s push each other for more. How do we commit to greater change? How do we collaborate and bring other partners in? There’s an opportunity to have more diversity at the table. Bring everyone in. 

Judy John is Global Chief Creative Officer.