Inside the PR Jury: From Pet Peeves to Protein (But no Escargot)

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At Cannes, everyone's focused on what won -- which campaign, which agency, what the tallies are for the various holding companies and countries. But before there's a winner, there's a jury. Ad Age is taking you inside the voting room through exit interviews with various jurors. Here, Renee Wilson, president of the northeast region for MSLGroup, emailed us about what went on behind closed doors.

Renee Wilson
Renee Wilson

Important questions first: What did you eat? Saumon, Coquilles St. Jacques and basically all protein, but not snails.

Any funny stories or anecdotes about your time sequestered in the jury room? One of the funnier things that happened occurred in the discussion around the Crisis/Issues Management category. As a collective global PR industry, we handle the management of some of the most high profile, intense crises around the world. However, for whatever reason, the only campaign that was shortlisted in this category was the Aflac duck incident. It was great watching my international jurors try to get their head around the Aflac duck and that crisis.

Over which campaign was there the most debate? I found myself heavily debating over both P&G Gillete's "Shave a Sutra," which focused on the insight that women in India found the idea of shaving their man appealing, and IBM's Watson, two really strong campaigns, in my opinion. Some of my fellow jurors outside of the US wanted PR in the purest sense, untouched by other marketing elements. PR is evolving in different ways around the world as the disciplines blur.

Who was the most outspoken juror? Ronald Mincheff, from Edelman Brazil, but I loved him for it. He would always be the first to say what we were all thinking. Plus it was his birthday.

What was the most surprising entry? I think the campaign from the Netherlands that was a public-awareness program for domestic violence that spoofed the creation of a make-up line to hide bruises and cuts. It was so shocking that it caused a moment to pause. It did not make the short list but was very thought provoking.

Did you learn anything? Yes, that even in this day and age, sex still sells around the world.

For the third straight year in a row, the PR industry is still failing to represent itself as strongly as it should in its own category.

Plus, there is a disconnect when it comes to results. In the PR industry, we look at publicity as a "basic" result of our objectives. The real results are when you can show a documented attitudinal change and better yet, a behavioral change. So many of the results sections of the entries said things like "...and we got free PR..." or "lots of OTS (opportunities to see)..." That's just not how you quantify results in public relations.

After seeing all of the work, what do you think should be retired? Stunts for stunts sake. If it's not part of causing a change in behavior, drop it. That and beer companies linking to futbol. Try something new, folks.

What is your advice for next year's jurors? Don't pack your swimsuit, as you won't need it. This is a lot of work and late nights. Also, check your ego at the door.

What else should we know about the process? It's intense and because PR is such a new category to the festival, there's a lot of education that needs to be done among folks that want to enter. Future PR jurors need to keep this process focused on excellence at the highest standards for the discipline even if it means awarding less Lions in these early years.

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