CANNES (AdAge.com) -- When Tim Bell laid out why Tourism Queensland's "Best Job in the World" campaign had netted the inaugural Grand Prix for the PR category, he sounded almost apologetic.
The phrases he used to describe the winner -- "classic," "very simple," "single-minded campaign" -- didn't signal much in the way of technological innovation or the pushing of boundaries. Instead, the message delivered by the chairman of the first PR Lions was that a great publicity idea carried forth in millions of impressions by mainstream media is enough to win, even at a place where everyone is trying to understand new tools of persuasion manned by ordinary consumers.
Regardless, the campaign, courtesy of CumminsNitro in Brisbane, Australia, has wowed judges early on at the 56th International Advertising Festival, the most high-profile of all ad award shows. "Best Job" netted two Grand Prix, in the PR and direct categories, besting much higher-profile agencies and brands -- not to mention higher-minded concepts, including Droga5's harnessing of comedian Sarah Silverman for President Barack Obama's election campaign and Sagami Rubber's award favorite, "Love Distance." These two campaigns were among the 18 that took home the first crop of PR Lions.
To be sure, "Best Job" did have its new-media flourishes. In fact, one was at its center. Tourism Queensland, which promotes the islands of the Great Barrier Reef, asked people to audition via video clips for a caretaker post that would get them a nice salary in exchange for exploring Hamilton Island and blogging about the adventures for a six-month stint.
These clips, which showed the lengths people would go to for consideration (e.g., stripping and getting a tattoo), of course made their way onto YouTube and other video-sharing sites, part of a massive viral explosion aided and abetted by an enormous amount of TV and print coverage. The tourism authority's effort outstripped expectations for the campaign, receiving more than 34,000 applications.
Except for the YouTube part, it's not hard to imagine such a campaign unfolding even as long as a decade ago, making it particularly notable now when so much attention in the PR business is focused on how emerging communications forums, such as social networks and microblogs, can be used to influence others. (Later in the day, for instance, an appearance by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone packed an auditorium at Cannes.) All that said, Mr. Bell declared CumminsNitro's handiwork a "highly contemporary campaign" that worked both on- and offline. And, of course, it was made all the more contemporary in that it was, at its base, a job ad at a time when many people are looking for work.
This was the first year that the Cannes festival has honored PR and it was a tough introduction, given the worldwide recession that has led to the amount of entries being down by 20%. "A pity there weren't more entries," said Mr. Bell, who is also chairman of London's Chime Communications.
The Direct Lions jury handed out 50 awards, including the Tourism Queensland nod. The other category decided today was the Promo Lions, of which 44 were distributed. The Promo Grand Prix went to Tokyo-based Beacon Communications for its work on the Japanese town of Yubari, which countered a negative image caused by bankruptcy by highlighting its low divorce rate.