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PR Firms Get Crushed at Cannes; Hill & Knowlton CEO Asks For Festival Name Change

This was supposed to be the year PR firms stormed advertising’s biggest party, the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

However, so far it seems most of the awards are being taken home by ad agencies, including the PR Lions, which was won by TBWA\Chiat\Day for their Gatorade “Replay” campaign (video above). Fleishman-Hillard did receive some creative credits on the submission, which had two high school football arch-rivals replay a game which they tied in November 1993. In other words, it was a PR stunt created by an ad firm.

Adweek‘s Brian Morrissey reports, “non-PR shops won 27 of the 42 gold and silver Lions awarded.” Paul Taaffe, CEO of Hill & Knowlton and PR jury chair issued a statement today which read in part:

The advertising industry is eating our lunch at these awards and the PR industry has to raise its game. There was a big increase in entries to the PR lions category overall but the number of entries from PR agencies was actually down. The PR industry has got to wake up and understand that our work can be exceptional and this is an opportunity to showcase that work in the best possible light. We need to do more.

Taaffe said he will speaking with festival organizers about removing the word advertising from the festival’s name. “Cannes Lions is no longer just an advertising festival. Good creative ideas can come from anybody but the different disciplines have grown up for a good reason and it is misleading to group all of these under the ‘advertising’ umbrella,” he said.

Wins by PR firms so far include Weber Shandwick’s Silver PR Lions for work with GLAXOSMITHKLINE, Fleishman Hillard’s Silver PR Lions for work with Papa John’ and Ogivly PR’s Silver PR Lions for work with Ford. Fleishman was the only U.S. based PR agency to win a Gold Lion, the second highest award after the Grand Prix.

Taaffe’s full statement after the jump.


CANNES LIONS PR JURY PRESIDENT PAUL TAAFFE CALLS FOR FESTIVAL NAME CHANGE

Cannes, 22 June 2010 – President of the Cannes Lions PR jury Paul Taaffe has called on the Cannes Lions festival organizers to change its name to recognize the wide variety of marketing disciplines represented at the festival, now in its 57th year. He also challenged the PR industry to raise its game after the number of advertising agencies entering and winning PR Lions continued to eclipse PR agencies.

Speaking after the PR Lions awards ceremony, Paul Taaffe commented: “The advertising industry is eating our lunch at these awards and the PR industry has to raise its game. There was a big increase in entries to the PR lions category overall but the number of entries from PR agencies was actually down. The PR industry has got to wake up and understand that our work can be exceptional and this is an opportunity to showcase that work in the best possible light. We need to do more.

“I will be talking to the organizers of Cannes Lions about potential barriers and why the PR industry is not engaging. I believe a good first step could be to look at its name. Cannes Lions is no longer just an advertising festival. Good creative ideas can come from anybody but the different disciplines have grown up for a good reason and it is misleading to group all of these under the ‘advertising’ umbrella.

“Of course, we also need to acknowledge that the advertising agencies have been playing the Cannes game for much longer. This is the 57th year of the festival and the PR category was only added last year so the industry is not as adept in packaging and showcasing their work as agencies who have been doing this for far longer.

“I also believe more needs to be done to make it easier for companies to fulfill entry criteria be it through mentoring or providing low cost copywriting or video capabilities, especially for smaller agencies. Clients also have a big role to play in saying these awards actually matter, and more active promotion is needed not just by the Cannes Lions organizers but the PR industry as a whole.”

- Ends -

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