Public Re­la­tions PR’S cre­ative break­through by Jac­que­line Bos­se­laar

Jac­que­line Bos­se­laar, CEO of Dutch public re­la­tions agency Het PR Bu­reau is some­what of a PR author­ity in the Nether­lands. Af­ter hav­ing ob­served in Cannes that PR is tak­ing more than ever a tremen­dous place in cam­paigns, she shares what she has learned.

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The Nether­lands did very well in this year’s PR cat­e­gory at Cannes Lions: ‘We’ won no less than seven Lions. That said, lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional trade me­dia have of­ten grum­bled about the fact that so few PR firms ever win any prizes at Cannes Lions. It wasn’t any dif­fer­ent this year – most prizes were still hauled in by ad­ver­tis­ing agen­cies.

Not that I’m com­plain­ing. What’s im­por­tant is that PR is gain­ing in im­por­tance and is in­creas­ingly be­ing seen as a cre­ative dis­ci­pline, which it is! That’s why I want to do my bit for our pro­fes­sion by shar­ing a few point­ers on cre­ative PR that I gath­ered in and around the Palais des Fes­ti­vals in Cannes.

1. Trust your au­di­ence

Al­ways trust your au­di­ence is the first im­por­tant pointer. Not nec­es­sar­ily new -but it was con­firmed in such a spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion that I must in­clude it. The Grand Prix win­ner in the film cat­e­gory, ‘It’s a Tide Ad’ by Saatchi & Saatchi New York, proved yet again that it’s what has never been done – ex­actly that! – can have the great­est im­pact.

The Amer­i­can laun­dry de­ter­gent brand Tide had con­ceived the idea of hack­ing ‘all’ the Su­per Bowl ads by sub­tly point­ing out that, in all com­mer­cials, the clothes are clean and that there­fore every com­mer­cial is ac­tu­ally a Tide ad. The bril­liant thing about it was that fa­mil­iar com­mer­cial for­mats, such as auto and beer ads, were par­o­died in Tide’s own ads and that ad­dons were cre­ated in col­lab­o­ra­tion with other ad­ver­tis­ers, such as Old Spice, so that ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ (with his spot­less white trousers) sud­denly re­al­izes he’s in a Tide ad.

At the same time, this cre­ative en­deavor meant that the brand faced the chal­lenge of re­coup­ing its $5 mil­lion me­dia in­vest­ment with 100 sec­onds and within a times­pan of three (!) hours. To make this hap­pen, be­sides the 100 sec­onds film, a com­plete war-room for so­cial me­dia was de­ployed. When the NBC net­work went black dur­ing the game due to a tech­ni­cal glitch, the team then quick-wit­tedly tweeted: ‘Clean clothes are still clean in the dark. If it’s clean, it’s a #Tidead.’

I think it’s bril­liant the way the public ab­sorbed and picked up this com­plete ap­proach just right, aided by a clever com­bi­na­tion of paid and earned me­dia. Ev­ery­thing about it (the con­cept, the ex­e­cu­tion, the con­tent and the PR strat­egy) made ‘It’s a Tide Ad’ an ex­tremely share­able story.

2. From pur­pose to so­lu­tion

The se­cond pointer or learn­ing is a new, ir­re­versible de­vel­op­ment: if, as a brand, you want to keep se­cur­ing your public’s at­ten­tion, this is what you have to do: add true value to peo­ple’s lives and to so­ci­ety.

We al­ready ob­served this trend last year with pur­pose cam­paigns such as Fear­less Girl, which won no less than four Grand Prix in Cannes.

This trend is now mov­ing up a notch. Con­sumers ex­pect brands and com­pa­nies not only to adopt a so­cial standpoint, but to also ac­tu­ally come up with so­lu­tions. We saw this ex­em­pli­fied in the mag­nif­i­cent #Shedrives cam­paign by TBWA\RAAD Dubai for Nis­san in Saudi Ara­bia, where women have fi­nally been per­mit­ted to drive. In the film, they get a help­ing hand from a quite ex­tra­or­di­nary driv­ing in­struc­tor... Here you can see the shift from sto­ry­telling to sto­ry­do­ing. Brands must not only tell what they stand for, but must also act upon it.

Richard Edel­man em­pha­sized this pointer dur­ing his talk in the Palais. His lat­est re­search, Trust Barom­e­ter Spe­cial Re­port: Brands and So­cial Me­dia, demon­strates that con­sumers ex­pect com­pa­nies to come up with so­lu­tions for prob­lems, such as fake news, fake fol­low­ers and the pro­tec­tion of per­sonal data. Con­sumers jus­ti­fi­ably feel they them­selves lack the power to do any­thing about it and they see that gov­ern­ments are some­how also in­ca­pable of tak­ing ac­tion. More than that -- con­sumers would

rather not buy any prod­ucts from brands that don’t stand up for such is­sues.

And then there was another, in my opin­ion, bril­liant ex­am­ple of sto­ry­do­ing and the pur­pose-to-so­lu­tion trend: the ‘This Coke is a Fanta’ cam­paign by DAVID São Paulo, which won a gold and a sil­ver Lion for PR. In Brazil, ‘this Coke is a Fanta’ is a known, but deroga­tory al­lu­sion to gays. Coca-cola had the guts to dis­trib­ute ‘cola’ cans dur­ing Car­ni­val that ac­tu­ally con­tained Fanta. In do­ing so, Coca-cola not only ad­dressed so­cial in­jus­tice but also in­cor­po­rated it into their prod­ucts -- thus bring­ing the mes­sage to the public in and through both brands.

Wen­de­line Sassen, the Dutch mem­ber of the PR jury in Cannes and strate­gist at Havas Lemz Am­s­ter­dam, with whom I spoke af­ter the award cer­e­mony, had also no­ticed this in­dus­try de­vel­op­ment. As she noted: ‘The Mean­ing­ful Brands pow­ered by Havas re­search shows that 74% of brands would not be missed if they were to dis­ap­pear to­day, in­clud­ing 60% of the con­tent they dis­trib­ute. To jus­tify their ex­is­tence, brands need to add value to peo­ple’s lives and come up with cre­ative so­lu­tions.’

3. Earned first

Now for the fi­nal and all-in­clu­sive pointer. Stu­art Smith (Global Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Ogilvy PR), chair­man of the Cannes Lions PR jury, stated: ‘Prac­ti­cally all the Grand Prix win­ners in Cannes this year have PR in them.’ In other words, PR is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a true break­through. This is be­cause it’s ‘earned first’ if we are to be­lieve re­cent re­search by WARC.

Ac­cord­ing to this in­ter­na­tional ad­ver­tis­ing and me­dia re­search agency, the world’s most ef­fec­tive cam­paigns are suc­cess­ful, be­cause they are built on a clever PR con­cept that gen­er­ates con­tent through all chan­nels and me­dia. When I read that it truly touched my cre­ative PR heart.

What’s im­por­tant is that PR is gain­ing in im­por­tance and is in­creas­ingly be­ing seen as a cre­ative dis­ci­pline… which it is! That’s why I want to do my bit for our pro­fes­sion by shar­ing a few point­ers on cre­ative PR that I gath­ered in and around the Palais des Fes­ti­vals in Cannes.”

Jac­que­line Bos­se­laar

Tide Ad

This Coke is a Fanta

Nis­san #shedrives

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