Don’t sweat Cannes. Awards are a form of media

Don’t sweat Cannes. Awards are a form of media

The market for public relations awards in the UK is over saturated. Awards are a means of credentialing and differentiation.

Next week is the Cannes Festival of Creativity. Cannes Lions awards will be awarded for creativity in marketing and communication disciples including public relations.

There’ll no doubt be much handwringing about the performance of public relations alongside other marketing disciplines.

With a few notable exceptions public relations  has a walk on part in the Cannes Lions in brand campaigns submitted by ad and media agencies. They typically command larger budgets as the lead discipline within holding companies.

But let’s not get this out of proportion.

Award schemes have become a form of media. They exist to generate income for an organisation through a combination of entry fees and overpriced chicken dinners.

Cannes is at the top end of the market. Award entries cost £500 to £1,000. A pass to the Festival is £3,000 per person. Accommodation and travel double the cost.

Overcrowded market for awards

The public relations industry like many other markets is saturated for awards. There are more than 1,000 different individual awards up for grabs in the UK among media, associations and third parties.

With disciplined planning and a good entry form anyone can become a winner.

Brunswick’s Marshall Manson has called out campaigns created specifically to win Cannes awards in PRWeek. I’ve judged AMEC, CIPR, EuroBest, PRCA, and PR Week awards and have never been aware of that level of manipulation, but I have spotted entries that have been retrofitted to suit an award and entered in multiple categories. 

Awards organisations compete for recognition as the industry Oscars. The benefit to winners is a badge, in the case of Cannes, a Lion.

Claims that awards drive new business for winners are a stretch but in an overcrowded agency market that has a low cost of entry, clients use awards as a means of credentialing and a benchmark of quality.

Awards as media

It’s no coincidence that there has been a boom in the award industry since Google and Facebook disrupted the ad market.

Awards have become an important revenue stream alongside events for industry media such as The Drum, Holmes Report, PR Moment, and PRWeek.

They are also an important revenue stream for professional and industry associations such as AMEC, CIPR, ICCO and PRCA.

There’s equally a burgeoning third-party market of niche awards and regional awards.

We should celebrate the fact that Cannes has broadened its remit to recognise public relations alongside marketing disciplines. That’s got be a good thing.

Congratulations to those that win an award but let’s not kid ourselves that awards are anything but a form of media and a way to stand out from the crowd.

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