A week at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has provoked the full range of emotions within me, from utter frustration and disappointment on Tuesday evening when only a handful of PR firms won in the PR category, to a hands in the air shout of triumph on Saturday night when Edelman, along with Venables and Starcom, won the Titanium Award for REI’s #OptOutside. Watch a behind-the-scenes look with REI’s Alex Thompson.
Edelman curated a program of activity across the week for our clients and prospects. Jackie Cooper hosted superstar Will Smith on the Lumiere stage, to discuss purpose in marketing and the need for connection to consumers based on tangible actions. I was on a panel with Unilever marketing executive Aline Santos and Sir Ken Robinson, a global expert in education, to release our second Earned Brand Report. We held a dinner on the impact of populism on brands, featuring our vice chairman of public affairs, Steve Schmidt, who ran the McCain campaign in 2008. Finally, we partnered with the Wall Street Journal to host a breakfast on Brexit on the Friday morning after the vote, which was interrupted by the resignation of UK Prime Minister Cameron. I attended public sessions, engaged with dozens of marketers and media company executives, and went to a few parties (highlight was definitely Gwen Stefani performing live in a castle outside of Cannes at the Viacom event).
Here are some observations on the past seven days:
The PR industry has to keep raising its game if we are to keep our share of spend, much less take increased share of the marketing budget. We should not whine about the outcome of the judging in the PR category; we should accept the jury verdict and consider it a large piece of cactus under our respective rear ends. We have to make sure that our CCO clients are moving along with us in the revolution as we seek to attract budget from the CMO. We must make data and insight core to our process, not to measure media output but to demonstrate tangible business results. We should learn from the ad agencies on the supply chain of creative, to have people senior enough and skilled in presenting breakthrough creative that takes a risk. We must continue to enter more categories, from Promotion to Digital; why limit ourselves when our new competitors are entering our territory. We need many more entries in crisis management and corporate reputation, which are the center of the plate for PR.
#OptOutside for REI, a retail chain carrying gear, apparel and footwear for a wide range of outdoor & fitness activities, proves that this kind of big idea thinking can come from PR heritage. The idea to shut down came from within the business, and #OptOutside as an engagement strategy was the brainchild of REI Chief Creative Officer, Ben Steele, and Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs Alex Thompson, an Edelman alumnus. It was a tangible action; the closure of all REI stores on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, in order to have customers and employees to have the day for hiking or canoeing or other activities. It stimulated 1.4 million pledges by consumers to do just that, to live the ethos of the brand. Edelman is so proud to have been part of this, enabling a dynamic social community which captured the best of customer experiences outdoors, announcing the effort through a collaborative journalism initiative on Medium, then ensuring strong earned media, then ensuring strong earned media that resulted in 33 days of sustained coverage and landing the story in virtually every major outlet.
We are also very proud to have won an Entertainment Lion with our client Activision for “Use of Brand/Product Integration into an Existing Brand Experience”. Our “Hack in Black” program was an incredibly innovative idea that was one of the first to leverage Snapchat and YouTube influencers to drive over a billion impressions. It was shortlisted in six categories and won a Bronze Lion. Our Samsung Mobile team also won two Bronze Lions in the Cyber category – which are in addition to a number of winning campaigns entered by partner agencies.
From our seven #TicketToCannes winners, who gained their passage with a winning idea, to our award winning creatives, planners and executives, we leave Cannes inspired by the work, determined to share our learnings and raise our game with our clients – who deserve the cutting edge of creative strategy to support and grow their businesses.
Richard Edelman is president and CEO.