Welcome to a special edition of our "Inside Edelman" blog series, where we share exclusive insights from our esteemed Cannes Lions jury members. Join us as we delve into the complex world of judging, unveiling expert predictions and invaluable brand advice.

Here, Andrew Simon, a member of the PR Lions jury and our Global Creative Director shares valuable insights on evaluating campaigns, emphasizing the importance of core ideas and creativity in driving real-world impact. He also explores emerging trends in PR, including the influence of generative AI, and the evolving role of PR in addressing social issues.

As a jury member for the PR Lions category, what criteria will you be looking for when evaluating campaigns? Can you provide some insights into the judging process?

I’m truly honored to have been chosen as a jury member at what is arguably the most prestigious industry award show in the world. In the words of Voltaire (as well as Spiderman’s Uncle Ben), “With great power comes great responsibility.” To give you an idea of the mighty task ahead of our jury, Cannes predicted 1,300 entries in the PR category this year and there are actually over 1,600. My fellow jury members and I will spend hundreds upon hundreds of hours dissecting some truly inventive thinking and imaginative work. And while the judging criteria is clear: 20% idea; 30% strategy; 20% execution; 30% results, it’s the ideas that are truly earned at the core that will win the day. This means that a great paid asset, no matter how “viral,” will be passed over in favor of work that is truly PR in nature and possesses the most compelling tension, the most magical idea, and the most significant real-world impact.

In your opinion, what role does creativity play in PR campaigns? How can brands strike the right balance between creativity and delivering a compelling message?

Creativity is everything and I’m not just saying that because it happens to be in my job title. Bringing creative thinking and delivering a compelling message are not mutually exclusive. To effectively solve business problems, it takes truly insightful and unexpected thinking to drive communications that can stand a chance against the millions of stimuli bombarding all of us every day. Cannes is called the Festival of Creativity for a reason. To be recognized, creativity is not a nice-to-have — it’s an imperative. And it’s never just about earned impressions alone. It takes innovative ideas to change minds and ultimately behaviour. Through the judging process, I’ve already seen numerous examples of the power of the right message delivered in the right way. And the results are truly something to behold.

Can you share any trends or emerging strategies in PR that you believe will be influential in the coming year? How can brands leverage these trends to enhance their communication and reputation?

The easy answer is AI and no, ChatGPT did not write this sentence. Yes, Generative AI will have a major influence on how brands show up in the world, from expressing themselves in new ways to responding to the dangers that go hand-in-hand with significant technological advancement. PR is never a stagnant entity. It’s a constantly evolving organism that reflects, and in the best cases, influences culture. The one constant is bravery. It’s the brands that are willing to stand for something and take actions to prove it, that will gain the most.

How do you see the role of PR evolving to address and respond to social issues, and what strategies do you think are most effective for PR professionals to navigate these complex and often polarizing conversations?

Consumers want to buy from brands that share their values and beliefs. So, there is very clear commercial viability for addressing the right social issues. The keys are relevance and commitment. Is this something that a particular brand has credibility to weigh in on? To be believed and ultimately effective, it has to be bolstered with a real and significant commitment, not given lip service. When a social issue pops up, no one is thinking, “I can’t wait to see what Brand X thinks about this highly explosive topic.” But when brands get it right, like Nike’s work with Colin Kaepernick, it can be transcendent.

Andrew Simon is Global Creative Director.