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Cannes Lions 2024 in review: A communicator’s outlook on a big year for PR

by | Jul 2, 2024 | Public Relations

As the curtains fell on another successful Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the global advertising and marketing community left the French Riviera with a wealth of inspiration and insights. While many noteworthy themes and trends were discussed throughout the week, three areas stood out in particular: artificial intelligence (AI), sustainability, and PR lead campaigns. 

PR wins at Cannes

As professionals in the PR field, we were elated to witness award wins by PR firms and earned-first creative. Historically, Cannes Lions has primarily focused on recognizing excellence in advertising and marketing, often awarding campaigns in the PR category to advertising agencies. However, this year, PR claimed its place in the limelight.  

Golin made history this year, winning two Grand Prix Lions, the first time a PR agency has won a Grand Prix with sole credit for its creative work with Specsavers. Other notable wins were by Ogilvy PR New York for CeraVe, Edelman Toronto and Salutem New York for Allegra Airways, and The Martin Agency for Solo Stove. Earned-first campaigns are the backbone of PR, and their effectiveness is reflected in the awareness and visibility they bring to brands, businesses, and the people they highlight. It was a truly banner year for the PR industry. 

Artificial intelligence

As expected, AI continued to be a hot topic at Cannes this year. With the revised Cannes guidelines prompting advertising professionals to disclaim AI-generated or influenced creative content, AI was poised to be put center stage in a way that it had not yet been at the festival. While the discussion was hot, it was met with more hesitation this year. Last year was about posturing and pointing to hypothetical use cases. This year we saw companies tout the rollout of AI products and solutions designed to create more personalized and targeted campaigns.  

Creators

This was the first year that the official Cannes Lions programming had a dedicated track to Creators, which took place on Thursday. To many, this signified the importance of creators as a part of the media mix. As a heated election cycle nears, many brands are considering increasing spend with creators in a bet that creator-generated content will be more brand-safe.  

Sustainability

Sustainability emerged as a pivotal theme, compelling brands to recognize the importance of addressing environmental and social issues. The ‘Net Zero: License to Operate’ panel, hosted by 51toCarbonZero, underscored the need for companies to take a clear stance on emerging sustainability guidelines. Notably, sustainability has transitioned from a discretionary consideration to an imperative, reflecting the industry’s response to global concerns. 

This demand stems from various stakeholders, offering companies an opportunity to proactively communicate their approach to sustainability and stay ahead of the curve. Panel moderator Richard Davis, Co-Founder & CEO at 51toCarbonZero, pointed out, “Policies are easy, but behavioral change is hard.” Read more about this panel on our blog here.  

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity provided insightful revelations and showcased the evolving landscape of the advertising and marketing industry. The prominence of PR lead campaigns, the continued impact of artificial intelligence, and the growing importance of sustainability were evident themes throughout the event.  

As the industry continues to adapt and change, it’s clear that creators, AI, and sustainability will play pivotal roles in shaping the future of creative campaigns and brand communication strategies. Cannes Lions 2024 has truly highlighted the growing synergy between innovation and creativity within the communications, marketing and advertising realms. 

Tiffany Guarnaccia
Tiffany Guarnaccia is Founder and CEO of Kite Hill PR.

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