Is PR the real Cannes Lions 2017 winner?

Public Relations

Cannings Purple 9 Jul 2017
2 mins

Cannings Purple Art Director Cameron Jones examines the changing world of advertising and the rising star of Public Relations.

An interesting thing just happened in the world of advertising; Melbourne company, Clemenger BBDO, has been named Agency of the Year at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. It’s not unusual for an Australian outfit to win, we tend to do well, but what is interesting is the nature of the star campaign which won them the accolade.

The Meet Graham campaign portrays a man whose body is equipped with the bone structure and organs necessary to resist the impact of a high-speed car crash. It was commissioned by Transport Accident Commission of Victoria to reduce traffic-related trauma.

Other than his appearance, what’s so unusual about this particular campaign? Well, considering the whole project was based on owned and earned media with almost no paid media, it isn’t strictly advertising. This is a PR campaign.

Graham doesn’t stand alone in being the a successful PR-based campaign to do well at Cannes this year. Other standouts include The Refugee Nation, The Fearless Girl, Like My Addiction, Whirlpool: Care Counts, Humanium Metal and the Heinekin; World’s Apart (all below) are all, to some degree, PR campaigns.

It’s also not just a lucky year for PR agencies, who won significantly more Lions this year. It’s a trend.

Globally, the line between PR and advertising is disappearing, with many agencies doing both. For advertising, the public can tune into the content they want and bypass paid advertising. For PR, traditional news networks are being undermined by new channels, media and stay-at-home, super-mum bloggers with thousands of followers.

What we’re seeing at this year’s Cannes, and expect to see in the future, is a common combination of both. With PR becoming a vital cog in many advertising campaigns and PR relying more on engaging, creative and fun angles it’s never been more important to consider integrated campaigns which deliver across the full breadth of consumer platforms.

The Refugee Nation

The Fearless Girl

Like My Addiction

Whirlpool: Care Counts

Humanium Metal

Heinekin; World’s Apart

Find the full list of winners here.

Cameron Jones is the Art Director at leading strategic communications consultancy Cannings Purple. If you have any further questions or enquiries feel free to contact him direct at