At the end of a momentous week of wins for W Communications, Warren Johnson, founder of the UK agency, sat down beachside with Arun Sudhaman to discuss the evolving role of PR, earned media, and why creative supremacy is a distraction and disservice. 

"I think people have got a bit obsessed with the idea creation credit,” Johnson says. “Most campaigns are ultimately ensemble casts…Given the fact that all work now seems to be measured with earned media as outcomes, I think we have an important role to play in delivery. I think there's a bit too much reporting focus on pure idea creation because an idea is just words on a page. It's about the delivery. And it's about the team you work with to execute it and then really connect it with culture. And so, if we can play a role in helping shape and deliver an idea, then I'm super happy with that.”

The concept of collaborating as an ensemble made up of advertising and PR teams is one that comes up often in the discussion. While considerable focus is frequently placed on distinguishing which agency led the work or which creative had the big idea, Johnson argues that PR, though often mentioned in a supporting role, has naturally inherent value.  

“We don't try and have that kind of creative supremacy,” says Johnson. “I think that's something that tends to get born in other industry categories. Less so, I think, in PR naturally because we never really own what we're selling. We’re always translating what a client wants to say versus what the media want to hear. You can never really be too single-minded in your creative drive. You always need to collaborate and sometimes compromise to get what you want.” 

Sudhaman prompts Johnson on the distinction between discipline and industry, “When you look at the work here in Cannes, what I find is the best work, it really is PR work, but it's not being created by PR agencies necessarily. Does it bother you that the kind of the discipline and the industry are separated?”

“That's a good observation,” says Johnson. “I think, ‘wouldn’t PR be great to do if you didn't have any accountability to it?’ I mean, if we just got to write ads and we didn't really have a client, and we didn't really have to deliver or find any media spend for? That'd be a lot of fun, but I think typically we don't have as deep pockets as other people to do the same thing. I see it all as hugely positive…the fact that you've got the world’s best marketers here, and the greatest value they put on their campaigns is earned media. I think that’s incredible.”

Warren Johnson is the founder of W Communications. The agency is one of the UK’s fastest-growing creative companies supporting global brands, market-leading innovators, and dynamic start-ups across earned media, social and digital.