In London late last month, I had the privilege to serve as president of the PR jury at the eurobest festival (the little sister to, and European regional event for, the Cannes Lions Festival) to judge in the PR, Integrated and Grand Prix for Good categories.

Like all award shows, the judging process at eurobest was exhausting, inspiring and motivating. The experience showed me that Europe continues to deliver outstanding work with impact that pushes technological boundaries and shapes culture. Work from Sweden continues to be leading-edge. Entries from Belgium, across all categories, were surprising and well-awarded. Southern Europe work was missing, and it’s clear that the UK no longer dominates in entries or metal.

But above all, this year’s festival reminded me how difficult it is to create genuinely original ideas.

In the PR category, we wanted to find and celebrate work that was truly “earned at the core.” We wanted to award work that moves and inspires people, that affects and shapes culture and helps to advance the world. We were thrilled that we found that and more. We judged work that not only builds influence, but changes minds and sparks debate.

Companies today rightly discuss the importance of a diversity and inclusion (D&I) policy and initiatives to create better, stronger businesses. But I believe it goes further. D&I is also at the core of making better, stronger, creative ideas. Diverse teams and skills create ideas that are designed to be inclusive and democratized in format and creation, that get co-created and shared. I think that this could be a new construct for creating ideas that resonate and work in today’s world; modern ideas by which companies and brands earn the right to have a conversation with their audience.

Here’s my top five themes from the work that we saw and awarded:

  1. Rise in Social Trust Campaigns. We saw a lot of work that uses social trust as a core platform. In other words, work through which brands explore the belief in the honesty, integrity and reliability of others — a “faith in people,” if you will. In this time of increasing distrust, when all of us live in media bubbles and we only see the information we like and want to hear, it was encouraging to see brands and companies taking risks to challenge people’s views, perceptions and deep-seated opinions on topics ranging from diversity and inclusion to the launch of a new material made of recycled metal from gun destruction programs, which is then made available for commercial production, creating new sources of funding for victims and projects aiming to rebuild conflict-torn societies. This is work that is often a social experiment, design to disrupt and be thought-provoking. More than a company or brand undertaking CSR or a purpose mission, this is work that gets people to reconsider deeply held personal values and views — that if we could do more, we could help to create a collaborative and understanding world. These were some of the better campaigns that we saw: Humanium Metal; All That We Share
  2. The Circular Economy Is Real. In contrast to a linear economy that most businesses still operate within, and help to reinforce, it was really pleasing to see work from companies, small and large, that are defying the norm and creating new and more sustainable models that the planet will thank us for: From Fat To Fuel
  3. “Matching Luggage” Is No Longer the Holy Grail. No longer should we be creating work that takes an idea that is then amplified across integrated media or channels. Modern integration allows people to co-create and grow ideas that take stories into new places with nuance and relevance. This means having the bravery to give up ownership of a central idea and democratizing it, allowing the audience to take it and own it. Brands need to develop ways to empower people to do this, to share, expand, challenge and rebuild ideas the way they want to see them. Businesses can use smart performance media buys to target and enhance how these stories travel and to find the amplifiers and content distributors so that they get seen and heard: The Right Vegetables; Buster the Boxer
  4. Look for Holes in the Cultural Tapestry. To tell great stories, we need to not just create work that is culture-first or culture-creating, but work that looks for the holes in well-accepted and loved cultural stories. That’s where ideas can get even more interesting and engaging. A great example of this is the work from German retailer Netto: Easter Surprise
  5. The Audience Is Now the Media. When we look to create media neutral ideas, what we should be asking ourselves is how do we create ideas that recognize and support the reality that our audience is now the media channel that we need to prioritize. Here’s a great example of this in action: Magneta Unleashed

On to Cannes in June 2018!

Michelle Hutton is managing director, Global Clients.