PRCA’s Francis Ingham: ‘Cannes 2016 will not be remembered with pride’

After only five of 84 PR Lions were awarded to PR agencies at this year’s Cannes Lions festival, PRCA’s director general, Francis Ingham, discusses his disappointment with the results and suggests four areas to concentrate on in the future.

Cannes 2016 will not be remembered with pride by many within the PR industry. That’s the stark truth.

We simply did not win the number of Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards that our industry deserves. I see at first hand, and daily, the innovative and brilliant work produced by PR practitioners from around the world. So I am deeply disappointed by the results this year – and while it might be diplomatic to hide that disappointment, it would also be disingenuous.

So what can we do?  

First, we can improve our submissions. In a format where video is king, we simply are not doing ourselves justice. Our advertising rivals invest in this format and we do not.

Secondly, we need to help Cannes redefine how it sees PR. The definition at  the moment includes reputation – great. It also references ‘sway’. Nobody in our industry would replicate that choice of words. So in both our interests and Cannes’, we need to create a better understanding of what defines our discipline.

Thirdly, we need to remember that this is a truly international programme. Jurors were clear that too many deserving campaigns failed to win because they didn’t recognise international context. You can’t win Gold if you can’t explain the particular local problems you overcame.

And finally, we need to embrace proper evaluation methods. There is still far too much usage of the hated AVEs. And too much swaggering around with millions of likes and retweets, when what we should be talking about is the actual change effected.

Is there nothing positive? Yes. The Young PR Lions competition run by ICCO showcased some fantastic young talent.  The US came first; Hungary second; the UK third. That young talent embodies everything we need. They eschew AVEs. They embrace content and technology as second nature. Their outlook is international by instinct.

So. Work to be done for sure. But I am easily certain that if we embrace the challenge, an incredibly bright future lies ahead.

  • Francis Ingham is director general of the PRCA
  • Also from Cannes 2016, read a “PR’s view from the Cannes Glass Lion judging” as Mary Whenman, President of Women in PR and communications director, Callcredit Information Group, gives an insider view of judging this year’s Glass: The Lion for Change award.
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