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48 hours at Cannes Lions

By Sinead O’Connor, 29.06.17 

Last week, I headed to the French Riviera for the Cannes Lions 2017. With the exception of ending up at Gutter Bar (if you know, you know) until 3am with some of the industry’s finest, I got a lot out of just 48 hours at the world’s biggest and best festival of creativity.

Here’s a couple of takeaways.

PR is finally being represented, but we have some way to go

On Monday, PR Week published a piece entitled, ‘This is the time for PR to shine’, noting that this year, changes to the Cannes Lions awards process and a revised definition of PR has meant that our ‘corner of the industry’ has been better represented.

‘Fearless Girl’ is a prime example of this. Winning the Grand Prix award, the in-house PR team at State Street was congratulated for the comms strategy around the Wall Street- defying artwork on International Women’s Day.

However, according to PR Week, just seven of the 100 Lions awards had a PR agency listed as the entrant / credited with “idea creation” – it’s clear that ad agencies are still dominating.

So what can we do about this? As an industry, we need to continue to challenge clients to drive creativity and ensure PR is at the forefront of integrated campaigns.

Last year we worked with Reuters on a campaign for Canon. The Commercial Director there speaks of a change in the way that briefs are coming over to them – he was open that he’d made an assumption in the early days of us working together, thinking that I was calling from an ad agency as, typically, campaigns of this nature would not have come via PR.

Reuters says that piece of work was the most successful campaign they ran last year, proving that there absolutely is a role for PR at the table.

Diversity remains a big talking point

Cannes 2016 was all about diversity in the workplace – exploring how can we ensure a better representation of women and ethnic groups in our industry. This year, unsurprisingly it’s still a key trend – we were never going to solve the problem in a year after all – but it’s good to see a shift in the way that brands talk about diversity. Global organisations are making open, public commitments to solving the problem, backed by tangible results.

I went to a great panel session, hosted by Teads, on the topic.

One of the panellists was Matt Derella from Twitter who said the company has made a commitment not to have any of their employees sit on a panel if the other panellists were all men. Jacki Kelly, the COO at Bloomberg Media also spoke about the launch of the Gender Equality Index and the ‘Walk the Talk’ whereby they interview CEOs about what they are doing differently to solve the gender gap.

At the session, She Runs It presented some research in partnership with LinkedIn and EY. It found that a slim number of senior women in the industry make it to the C-Suite. Whilst I was pretty saddened by this, I wasn’t surprised. Like many, my initial reaction to conversations around a lack of women on a board was to blame the fact that many opt to focus on a family rather than a career. However, the research proved me – and many others – wrong. Apparently, the biggest reason women don’t make it to the C-Suite is endorsements – men more aggressively network and are better at recommending each other. At the same time, women are less likely to promote themselves and, importantly, each other in the workplace. Now of course you have to take it with a pinch of salt given LinkedIn was the proxy for the research but you can’t argue with the numbers.

“A woman asking another woman for help is the same as a man asking for directions”, said one panellist.

I like to think that I already work in an environment where the women absolutely champion each other – but it’s definitely given me food for thought about what else we can be doing, particularly to support the more junior women in the team.

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