CANNES — Members of this year’s PR Lions awarding jury share some of their favourite campaigns from the shortlisted and winning work at PRovoke Media’s annual jurors’ roundtable in Cannes, where they awarded Golin the PR Lions Grand Prix for idea creation for its ‘Misheard Version’ hearing aid campaign with Rick Astley for Specsavers.

Kat Thomas, founder and global chief creative officer at One Green Bean and PR Lions jury president

My favourite was ‘Sweethearts Situationships’ (pictured), because it’s a legacy brand in the confectionary category in the US that had had less and less traction with younger audiences and someone had the brilliant idea of taking waste from the production line – blurred, misspelt and damaged sweets they throw away – and packaging them up for ‘situationships’, or blurry relationships. It’s an absolute nod to Gen Z cultural currency and got huge airtime on TikTok and other social channels. When we first saw it, we saw a sustainability piece with a creative wrapper and creating a campaign around that. Where we got forensic, we realised it was a small limited edition run, when it could have been a second product, which was frustrating when it has so much potential.

Vanessa Ho Nikolovski, Weber Shandwick’s chief client and growth officer for Asia-Pacific.

Outside of the Golds, I liked the boldness and ingenuity of ‘Unsealed Books’, which saw a Hungarian bookstore chain, Líra, stand up against lawmakers on discrimination and censorship, and getting a national ruling overturned. The Hungarian government had passed a law that all books depicting homosexuality had to be wrapped in plastic and sales were restricted. This affected literature from ancient Greek poetry to Proust and even Harry Potter. Líra did not comply and was heavily fined. Their creative solution was to record the texts of these books as podcasts, as the law only referred to books. This approach was amplified by celebrities and influencers via their social channels, reaching a vast audience. By subscribing to the podcasts, people helped Líra pay for the fine. The earned media attention and public support led to the unjust fine being overturned in an unprecedented move by the government. Thus, Líra transformed a societal outrage into a positive force for Hungary and themselves. As a literature and language major, and a huge believer in freedom of the arts, this one spoke to me.

Sebastian Stępak, CEO Central and Eastern Europe at MSL

Mastercard’s ‘Wheelchair Ballkid’ was an amazing story about inclusion. It is in their DNA – and hopefully will continue. Also ‘Snoop Goes Smokeless’ for Solo Stove – we were all struck by one social media post that moved everything. Absolutely brilliant.

Tomoko Tagami, chief corporate communication officer at Shiseido

I fell in love with Heineken this year, and its ‘Bar Experience’ corporate reputation and internal communications campaign [Edelman]. It’s just the start with no immediate business impact, so not a Grand Prix, but they did brilliant things for many aspects of corporate reputation, multiple stakeholder relationships and B2B business partners, with recruitment as a priority. They are trying to change perceptions and elevate the value of bar work, and trying to engage other industry players like Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Unilever to make bar experience part of their criteria for job applications.

Sama Al Naib, MD of digital innovation for EMEA at Burson

I loved the ‘Heroes’ Belated Graduation’ campaign for South Korean food manufacturer Binggrae. Essentially what they did was celebrate more than 2,500 young activists who stood up in the time of South Korean independence – they were expelled from school, but time has passed and Binggrae wanted to correct the public record. They created a belated graduation ceremony using AI and hologram technology. It was use of AI not for its own sake and was so profoundly moving. Binggrae has a history of supporting activists, so it was a purpose-led campaign, but it had arguable commercial or business impact. We need to look beyond purpose and normalise commercial impact.

Fenella Grey, outgoing EMEA managing director at Porter Novelli

For me, it was the Xbox ‘Everyday Tactician’ campaign with Bromley FC [McCann London], which feels like the future of talent recruitment, widening talent pools and being more inclusive and direct. It was amazingly innovative, creative, fun, inclusive and responsible. It’s a purpose campaign without saying purpose. Also the Santander ‘Gender Discount’ campaign – the bank gave woman a 21% discount on its products and services, mirroring the 21% less earned by women. To create change you need a big statement and brand commitments to create real change. It was a really bold, commercial activist, purpose-driven campaign that was relevant for the brand, the audience and the moment. And the VW ‘Generations’ campaign did well – you could clearly see the power and results of PR. The press launch was sending content to journalists via WhatsApp, it was all shared through family groups. It showed a press conference isn’t just about unveiling an ad, and a campaign doesn’t need to be big bells and whistles creative.