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The best PR job in the World! …possibly?

June 24, 2009

Hey all – in my spare time (yeah right!), I’m now also blogging for Haymarket’s Media Magazine. Will also cross-post what I have here.


After my last blog post and given that I’m a New Zealander, this will be my last reference to Australiana for a while – promise! 🙂

This week marked a momentous milestone for the PR industry globally, with the awarding of the inaugural PR Grand Prix and PR Lions in Cannes yesterday. Even adrants had a little fun at how giddy the PR industry was to be included. Congratulations to Cumminsnitro (or SapientNitro as they are now) Brisbane for doing the region proud!

However, given how notoriously gobby PR and comms folk are online (esp. given how parochial we are about regional success), I’ve been amazed to find almost no commentary, pick-up or re-tweeting of the news? I’ve got some thoughts about why this might be:

1. Hardly any PR/comms people in the region knew that there was a PR award at Cannes this year? Even I know I didn’t until April when the judges were announced. When you look through the full list of PR entries, a lot of the "industry-great-and-good" are missing, esp. from Asia where many of the entries are from firms that are more advertising-focused like Leo Burnett or Hakuhodo.

Given the raft of PR-related entries for the recent Asian Marketing Effectiveness Awards and the proximity of timing for the submissions for Cannes, I’m surprised there wasn’t more from the PR powerhouses in markets like China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Singapore – or even Australia.

2. The cost. I was talking to one senior advertising leader who said that their agency had spent $56,000 on entries and were sending only three people up to Cannes, half their number of attendees from last year. Most PR firms can’t justify a massive cost versus reward for major award entries – not just entry fee, but cost to produce sizzle reels, presentation boards etc etc. It’s a shame that cost could potentially be a barrier to good PR work being profiled.

3. Relevance in today’s world. I’ve read a lot about how the mood at Cannes this year is a lot more somber. Makes sense after a year where corporate greed transformed the relationship between consumers and institutions and general trust levels have fallen through the floor. While the theme at Cannes this year is "Ignite Your Creativity" I’ve got wonder whether the average PR Pro feels more invested in campaigns that drive societal issues like environmentalism, rebuilding trust, or managing major the raft of major crises (did anyone say Sanlu?) that have dominated the landscape this year? Again, when you look through the PR entries and shortlist, it is very skewed to consumer marketing programs.

4. In-house versus agency as heroes? Again, looking through the list of entries, the group being most profiled are the agencies or consultancies. This runs counter-intuitive to most PR people I know, who would prefer to see the client take the limelight in the partnership that makes great campaigns come to life. Maybe, it again comes back to this concept of the ‘big idea,’ but I’d imagine that the in-house press and PR team at Tourism Queensland spent many, many sleepless nights fielding and responding to the needs of the global media around ‘best job’ – so who’s PR award is it really?

5. Was it really a PR campaign? I remember when Ben Southall was announced as the winner, that Tourism Queensland positioned the campaign as much more of triumph in advertising. Even USA Today lauded ‘the advertising campaign‘ for winning a PR and direct marketing award? I know the lines are blurring, but I also think that most PR Pros feel that this was always positioned as an advertising campaign (sorry esteemed Cannes PR Lion jury), and can’t take it to their hearts even though the media relations and online engagement was so successful. Makes me wonder why this didn’t win the Integrated Lion, given the great way the various marketing techniques and tools came together.

An Asian winner as the first recipient for a major PR award should be getting more online, offline (and pub chatter) love and be trumpeted from up high by the community – but it’s not and I don’t think it will. A shame really.

From reviewing the short-list, my ‘from-afar’ favorites are "The War Against Dengue" from Brazil and The Great Schlep from the US. Both have all the elements that I think are important for today – a greater good at heart, targeted at different audiences, requiring smart channel and materials management – success mostly garnered for little to no cost, versus a campaign with a $1.2 million dollar spend.

This is not a ding on the esteemed jury (maybe a pitch to be on next year’s panel??), but the flat response by the industry (at least on this side of the world) has got to be an issue for further discussion.

Why do you think the response to this award has been so flat? Which PR campaign from Asia do you think deserves special mention? Interested (as always) in your thoughts.


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