Amith Prabhu: Whose Cannes Lion is it anyway?

30 Jun,2014

By Amith Prabhu


My column last week was blank to express dissatisfaction that no Indian PR firm won a lion and that no PR firm won the Grand Prix. Some friends wrote to me stating that a PR firm had indeed won the Grand Prix and I told them that I had done my research before stating publicly that no PR firm had won the Grand Prix.


First, some background from publicly available information. Only two firms based in India decided to send four and two entries respectively for four campaigns. Madison sent one entry in three categories and one in one. Perfect Relations sent one entry each in two categories. All the other 32 entries from India were from ad agencies. Some of them won Lions. I keep saying that PR firms are used by ad agencies to publicise their work, similarly PR firms should use ad agencies to package their work better.


Coming to the second point. It is unfortunate that the Grand Prix went to an events/content agency based in LA called Creative Artists Agency. In India they have are better known as CAA/Kwan and run by Anirban Blah. A new rule demands that the entity that enters the award should name the PR firm that worked on the campaign. However, the Scarecrow campaign was out and out a creative campaign by Moonbot Studio and CAA.


The world’s largest independent PR firm was fortunate to be present at the awards ceremony and claimed that the Grand Prix for PR was finally in PR land. Edelman was lucky that CAA who entered in this category gave it due credit. Many campaigns did not mention the name of the PR firm because creative agencies do not want to share the limelight. Edelman was luckier that folks from CAA or Moonbot Studio were not present to accept the award and they got to claim the trophy as their own.


For more context, the Chipotle Scarecrow was created by film makers Brandon Oldenburg and Limbert Fabian. CAA stepped in and worked with them as the main force, but the messaging came from Chipotle. The production was done by Moonbot Studios. All this for an app, which was a game accompanied by the video.


The PR firm came into the picture to help support earned media initiatives. Solely promoted through PR, starting with a USA Today exclusive and earned social media, the Scarecrow generated over 7 million views. I lived in the USA when this campaign was launched and personally, it did not make an impact on me though I love Chipotle. This column is not to belittle the PR firm. I have worked there. I have the highest respect for the company. But somewhere it does not feel that the Grand Prix has come to PR land yet. In fact Fleishman claimed that they were the first to win a Grand Prix for PR a couple of years ago. Even that is incorrect as the submission was by their sister company TBWA.


Firstly, the PR firm did not conceptualize the campaign, they only amplified an existing initiative. Secondly, they entered several of their campaigns from offices in Shanghai and London and New York but this was not a campaign they entered and lastly, because for a student of PR there is nothing to learn from this campaign that was done uniquely or differently.


This column is to wish Edelman which is the largest single firm in revenue better luck in 2015. May a campaign win next year, which is conceptualized and submitted as an entry by a PR firm. I hope that firm is Edelman because having worked in one of its largest offices I am convinced they have the potential. And then we can all say with pride the Grand Prix has truly come to PR land.


It is weird that no one has written about this. I choose to because the question remains; as to whose Cannes Lion is it anyway?


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