Cannes Lions Award winner: creativity prized over impact?

This is Banco Popular de Puerto Rico’s ‘Most Popular Song’ campaign and it took top PR honours at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity (that last word in the title of these long-standing annual awards is a recent addition). It may have been a worthy winner from a creative perspective but I’ll bet many clients who pay advertising and PR agencies for ideas were left wondering, as I was, if the campaign actually achieved its stated aim: to persuade the 60% of Puerto Rico’s population that currently live off welfare payments to get themselves a job and start contributing financially to society.

I’m waiting for a definitive answer from Gail Heimann of Weber Shandwick, who led the jury. If it turns out that the campaign didn’t include any measurement of that one, clearly-stated purpose, then the fact that it became a Cannes Lions award winner stinks; it does everyone in PR a disservice and shows that the advertising world still values creative ideas over delivering results for clients. May I suggest that the venerable crowd of creative luvvies at Cannes change the name of this event to the ‘Cannes Festival of Effective Communications Campaigns’.  That way, they’ll never lose sight of the need to deliver what clients pay them for.

On a separate point, many commentators in the UK marketing press picked up the Award jury’s comments about PR agencies failing to produce ‘big creative ideas’, as the advertising agencies repeatedly do. Only 2 out of about 134 PR entries were from the UK, a nation envied for its creativity in all sectors, including marketing. So we hardly need to be beat ourselves up over these comments at a local level. Creativity is important, and this crowd perhaps place it above everything else. But ultimately, for PR firms to propose big ideas they need direction from clients that those ideas will be supported with adequate budgets; that’s assuming clients are agency-neutral in this respect – some aren’t.

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