CANNES — AB Inbev and Spinneys/Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation (LBCF) have won Grand Prix awards in the PR Lions category at this year's virtual Cannes Lions festival, with PR agencies again notable by their absence in terms of leading idea creation for the big winners.

Two Grand Prix were awarded in the category, with Interpublic Group agencies dominating, and Weber Shandwick credited as the PR agency for both. 'Contract for Change' was a campaign by ABInbev that developed the Michelob Pure Ultra Gold to help more farmers transition organic. Idea creation was led by FCB and PR agency support provided by 3PM Agency/Weber Shandwick.

Meanwhile, 'The Bread Exam' saw Spinney's Flour partner with the LBCF to develop a bread recipe that implicitly teaches women how to self-check for breast cancer. The effort was created by McCann Paris, with Weber Shandwick Istanbul, London and Paris, and Rowat PR in Beirut, providing PR agency support.

Speaking about The Bread Exam, PR Lions jury president and Weber Shandwick CEO Gail Heimann said: “This one was a very simple, very elegant idea. It used its simplicity to break through, and did so in a way that was beautiful and intimate, but also drove change”. 

In terms of idea creation, the 11 Gold Lion winners were similarly dominated by advertising agencies, with only three PR firms — Humblebrag Amsterdam, Mango Auckland and Current Global — credited for providing public relations support. Among Silver Lion winners, two PR firms — LLYC and Australia's Herd MSL — are credited for idea creation.

Those results come after Golin became the first PR firm to land idea creation credit for a Gold Lion winner, at the last Cannes Lions Festival in 2019. Golin's win came amid an alarming run for public relations firms, which have typically been relegated to either lesser Lions (silver and bronze) or subordinate roles providing earned media support for campaigns that originated with ad agencies or digital firms. Unfortunately, that trend reasserted itself in 2021, following a decade in which PR firms (barring notable triumphs for Prime and FleishmanHillard) were largely relegated to support roles on Gold-winning campaigns. 

In total, 67 awards were handed out from 1,725 entries to this years PR Lions category, which compares to 1,857 in 2019. PR Lions jury president Heimann will feature at PRovoke Media's Cannes Condensed event on Thursday.