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.
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.”
This Coke is a Fanta