Cannes Musings: What It Takes to Win at Cannes (VIDEO)

Posted by Elise Mitchell on July 3, 2018

Isobar Grand Prix

Winning a Lion is, in the minds of most marketing communications professionals, the equivalent of winning an Oscar or a Grammy.  Everyone wants to know: What does it take to win?

A few years ago, I served on the PR Lions jury. Not only did the experience inspire me creatively, but I gained a much deeper understanding of what great work looks like and why something does/doesn’t win. I developed a checklist of must-have qualities:

  • Creativity
  • Originality
  • Measurable results beyond just awareness to include business impact, behavior and perception change
  • The work must resonate with the intended audience and be locally relevant
  • Work that changes the conversation around a product or service, a topic or issue
  • Integrated campaigns that go beyond earned to incorporate the breadth of tools and channels available to communicators today

This year I’ve expanded that list considerably by capturing a few secrets from some 2018 Lions winners. Read on for their insights on why they won.

Insights from the winners

First, some learnings from one of our sister agencies, Isobar. The digital firm won Grand Prix in Digital Craft for its virtual reality piece “Aeronaut,” which features a performance by the lead singer of The Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan.IMG_7823

The work stood out for many reasons, and their learnings can be applied to any project.

  • First, it was the team’s artful blending of technology and creativity to tell a compelling story. “The technology was highly complex yet the experience was simple, intuitive and enjoyable,” explained Jean Lin, Isobar global CEO and also this year’s jury president of Digital Craft. “Digital Craft is at its best when it augments humanity.”
  • Second, it was doing something that had never been done before. In this case, it was the use of several technologies in combination. The team used Microsoft Mixed Reality Capture Studio, Google’s TiltBrush and Unity’s “CineMachine” to create a highly immersive experience. Each one is innovative in its own right, explained Dave Meeker, Isobar global director of emerging technology.
  • Third, and perhaps most important, was teamwork. You need the right team in place with the vision and the commitment to make it happen, especially if the work is unique and challenging. “This was a long and difficult creative process,” said Meeker. “The key to our success was perseverance and close collaboration with the client and technology partners to bring a project to life many people thought would be impossible.”

Next, I want to share some insights from the winners of last year’s Young PR Lions competition, two PR pros from Hungary -- Luca Hadnagy and Paloma Medina. Their brief was from the British Red Cross for a campaign to raise awareness and donations for the Lake Chad drought crisis in Africa. 

Young Lions

I invite you to watch my interview with Luca and Paloma. Here are some highlights from our conversation on what it takes to win at Cannes:

  • Key insights – Their campaign relied on five core insights that touched on their target audiences’ perceptions, behaviors and preferences.
  • Creative strategy – The duo ended up going with their first idea, “#lakeforlake,” which made the campaign locally relevant and scalable to other regions. This shows that sometimes your gut instinct can be your best bet, especially if you’ve done a solid job of uncovering key insights.
  • Integrated work – They developed an integrated approach that included the use of VR to create an emotionally moving experience for consumers, a strong social component, a clever fundraising event featuring altered work of popular artists, and a very simple way to capture donations throughout the campaign.
  • Metrics – They identified measurements for each aspect of the program.

Other lessons Luca and Paloma learned on how to win:

  • Take your time to get the right insights. Once you have these, the ideas will come.
  • Use the full breadth of communications tools and a variety of platforms to create a fully integrated campaign. This will deliver the strongest results.
  • Trust your instincts. Sometimes your first idea is the best.
  • Time pressure and a little bit of adrenaline can be a good thing. They can help you turn the corner on your ideation process and commit to the idea you want to go with.
  • Believe in your work. Your confidence will help sell in your ideas to others.
  • Love what you do – and have fun!



How to Win a Lion at Cannes from Mitchell Communications on Vimeo.

(Stay tuned for more Cannes Musings.)

Elise is the Chairman and Founder of Mitchell Communications Group and CEO, Dentsu Public Relations Network

President, ICCO

2014 PR Lions Jury Member 

Topics: Digital and Social, Digital Marketing, Digital, Public Relations, Employee Engagement, influencer marketing, Cannes

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