What took them so long?

In this guest posting, Naomi Parry reports from the jury room on how the judging process is going for the inaugural Cannes PR Lions.

A few years ago, there was a chef who, when he finally scored his coveted third hat, stepped onto the stage at the awards ceremony and said: “What took you so effing long?” I remember thinking, what an ungrateful arsehole.

So it may well be that the jury for the inaugural Cannes PR Lions is a bunch of ungrateful arseholes, as the conversation on the first day of judging centred around: “What took them so effing long?” This is the 56th International Advertising Festival, and the first year that PR has been included. There’s film, press, direct, promo, cyber, radio, outdoor, media and design, so it seems extraordinary that this is the first year that PR has been recognized as part of the communications and marketing mix.

Nevertheless, we’re here, it’s happened and the jury is unanimous in its determination to make the first PR Lions a success and to pick inspiring work. PR as a new category does throw up some challenges. Is it as easy to judge a PR campaign as it is, say, a radio campaign or an outdoor ad? Well, after two solid days of judging, I can assure you, it is. Great, creative campaigns stand out like the proverbial. Although I suspect things are going to get lively around day four, when we have to make final selections.

You may be wondering how the Aussie submissions are faring. I’m only permitted to speak in generalities, so suffice to say we’ve been punching well above our weight. We are, in fact, under-represented with entries, so there’s a job to be done for 2010.

There’s been a lot of discussion about what constitutes an award-winning PR idea. And whether some folks from ad agencies have just stuck their ad campaign in our section to see what happens. Jury president Lord Tim Bell has been adjudicating those debates, as they get quite heated quite quickly.

What is reassuring is to see how closely aligned the judges’ opinions are, thus far anyway. There are 14 of us, from all over the globe, but our selection of the shortlist for the next stage has been incredibly consistent.

Overall, Cannes doesn’t disappoint. The sun is shining and there is little evidence of “le GFC”. Those who are Cannes regulars tell me that 2009 is a very different year, with a few less entries and a lot less parties, but this is early days. So far, only the PR, Promo and Direct Lions judging is underway. The official schedule and associated festivities don’t kick in until next week. And anyway, as far as I can work out, everyone is too busy twittering and blogging in their hotel rooms to do too much social stuff.

One of the hot seminar spots on the schedule is Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, who will lead the first ever ‘Official Cannes Lions Tweet-Up’ with PR outfit Hill & Knowlton next Monday. Another is 45 Minutes with Barack Obama’s Campaign Manager (I bet he got a pay rise). And Bob Geldof is joining Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, to launch a major international campaign on climate change at the end of Cannes Lions week. If we were handing out Lions for seminars, that one’s a Titanium.

More next week when the first PR Lions and Grand Prix are, at effing long last, awarded.


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