I´ve been in many juries for PR Awards. I´ve been in the jury for the Cannes PR Lions, the Clio and the highly respected D&AD Awards. Each jury was an honour and a pleasure. But one thing became a growing burden – year after year, from jury to jury. More and more I got the impression that we judge not the real world. The real PR and Marketing-world is a world, where products are launched and corporations are managed. But the cases we discussed in all this jury rooms where not about products or business. The PR programs we saw presented solely brands which help overcoming the gender gap, companies which help to stop violence against women and brands or corporations which supporting refugees and all poor children around the world.
Don´t miss understand me, I´ve seen brilliant social responsibility programs, smart and very creative work. But when you judge more than 500 entries for the D&AD Awards and nearly every program is somehow cause-related and doing good, you wonder whether this work reflects reality and demonstrates the industry we are realy in.
The spirits we called
Well, you´ve heard this already. Complaints about so called “Golden Ideas”, ideas and programs only executed to win an award, right? But I think for PR that´s not the only reason.
It´s the spirits we called, the Pandora´s box we´ve opend – some years ago. Wi we pledgeth the new century we´ve predged companies to face their responsibility for society and environment. We urged them to step in. A bunch of companies today are so big that they beat the gross national product of many countries. Walmart for example, with more than 500 Billion US-Dollar revenue. Only 22 countries around the world are bigger than this enterprise. So it´s clear: this mega-companies have to have a say in this world – and take their responsibility.
So Marketing and PR jumped in over the last ten years – to invest and intervene to change the world for the better. And yes, many fulfilled their duty. But there is also the other side of the coin: There is “green washing”, “white washing”, “pink washing” and even “rainbow-colored washing”. And all in all – it seems – there is too much of everything.
Take Social Responsibility for granted
So I am very happy that the jury at D&AD 2017 did a brave step. We´ve simply disestablished the PR-award category “Social Responsibility”. With a good reason. Here is what the jury has to say about this:
“We felt that in today’s changing and uncertain world brands have a responsibility to embed social responsibility into their business and marketing activity. We should not be treating this as a separate category. Where appropriate the campaigns that were rooted in the core business of the brand and delivered impactful change we moved into other categories.”
And that’s it: social responsibility should not be “on top of a PR-program”. It should be implicit. Only being "social" is not a reason to win at any Marketing, PR and creativity award show. We saw fantastic programs which we moved other categories where they fit even better and where they won for a better reason than just supporting “social responsibility”.
A wonderful side-effect of the elimination and movement was that we filled up categories which are normally pretty empty such as “public affairs” - categories which represented our industry much better and more realistic.
So have a look into this year´s winners . All D&AD pencils are very well deserved. Congratulations to all winners. Especially to one - the Black Pencil Winner “Meet Graham” by Clemenger BBDO Melbourne for the Transport Accident Commission (Victoria). The PR-Category is very new at D&AD, this year was the second, so we are very proud to honor a Black Pencil to a PR-program this year.
This program fulfilled all criteria the PR jury was looking for: 1. An original and inspiring idea which is able to spark a larger conversation in public, 2. An iconic delivery, an imprint on your mind, exceptionally well executed and highly visible and 3. A relevant idea which connects to a context motivating to an audience and changing behaviour. All this you can see in “Meet Graham”
And on top of this, the iconic visual of Graham fits perfectly to a visual trend predicted by Getty Images for this year: Messthetics, the power of the ugly aesthetic. To qupte Getty: “Messthetics is all about harnessing the power of the ugly aesthetic. Its about a rebellion against the order of everyday life that revels in the physicality and soul of human nature.”