Creativity with purpose: PR lessons from Cannes

Creativity with purpose: PR lessons from Cannes

Earlier this month we held a lively panel discussion about what PR can learn from this year’s Cannes Lions.

Our industry may be on the fringes of this international ad festival, but there’s still a lot that PR professionals can learn from this year’s winners:

Big ideas don’t need big budgets

 State Street Global Advisors’ ‘Fearless Girl’ campaign topped the leader board at Cannes and is a fantastic reminder that creativity (and impact) can be achieved without a hefty price tag.

Starting as an offline idea for International Women’s Day, the ‘Fearless Girl’ campaign took the world by storm as a timely, yet permanent, fixture on Wall Street. The idea caught the attention of many and overall, it helped raise awareness for gender equality in the corporate world and drove conversations around female empowerment.

This proves that the quality of ideas does not depend on the size of the budget. Instead of spending more, what really matters is how the campaign impacts the brand’s audience, business and culture.

The search for ‘authenticity’

 Authenticity was one of the big buzz words of the week.

Several of this year’s Cannes winners show that, when executed in the right way, campaigns that achieve true ‘authenticity’ and tap into a wider social purpose, can be hugely impactful.

One such campaign was India’s Free a Girl Movement’s School for Justice project. The campaign, a collaborative effort between School for Justice, J Walter Thompson and FleishmanHillard, aimed to bring justice to the survivors of sex trafficking by educating and training survivors to become lawyers, enabling them to prosecute criminals fairly and bring about a positive change to India’s legal system.

Free a Girl Movement’s School for Justice campaign was successful in aligning with cultural relevance, diversity and sensitivity, showing the value of understanding its target audience and relating to them. As a result, child prostitution is now openly discussed in the Indian society and media, and the project has garnered endorsements and high engagement rates.

It’s all about measurement

 Finally, Cannes was a timely reminder for us not to take measurement for granted. All of this year’s winners had one thing in common – they showed how their campaign had directly contributed to a business’ bottom line or an organization’s purpose.

The ‘Van Gogh Bnb’ campaign, that took the ‘Creative Effectiveness Grand Prix’ at Cannes, inspired a belief in the correlation between creativity and commercial impact, with its replication of the Van Gogh’s exhibit in the Art Institute of Chicago into a full-scale bedroom for people to stay the night. The campaign displayed immense impact – driving huge global conversation, introducing a younger and broader audience to the museum, and even bringing in short term revenues of up to $4.6m.

Results are sometimes forgotten in the race to come up with a ‘big idea’ but this year’s Cannes winners remind us that the best campaigns have clear KPIs built in from the outset.

In summary, creativity for creativity’s sake is over. Like advertising campaigns, PR strategies need to be purposeful and show tangible impact to be considered a success. This doesn’t necessarily mean big budgets – just big thinking.

See what FleishmanHillard won at this year’s Cannes Lions, here