Cannes 2024: Golin On Their PR Lions Grand Prix Win

(MENAFN- PRovoke) Last week Golin became the first PR agency to win the PR Lions Grand Prix for idea creation, for their 'Misheard Version' campaign for Specsavers. The win was the most notable in a Stellar year for the PR industry in Cannes, joining another Grand Prix for the same campaign in the Audio & radio track, Grand Prix for Weber Shandwick and Ogilvy, and the first Titanium for a legacy PR agency, for Edelman.

Here, Golin London chief creative officer Alex Wood and CEO Ondine Whittington talk to Maja Pawinska Sims about their historic win, and how they developed the campaign, which features British pop singer Rick Astley and the misheard lyrics to his 80s hit, Never Gonna Give You Up. You can watch the two-minute 'Misheard Version' campaign video here .

MPS: How does it feel having won the first Grand Prix in the PR Lions for idea creation?

AW: It feels amazing – and long overdue for an earned agency to take back that category. The win in Audio & Radio was an amazing follow-on to show earned ideas can not only do well in PR but break out into other categories – that trend is growing and it was lovely to see that play out for us.

OW: There's no doubt it feels surreal. We're taking a moment to work out what it means for us and the industry. It's a pivot point for all of us: we've set a bar and we want to keep raising that and to keep striving. How we keep going now is really important.

MPS: Tell me about the work – what was your brief from Specsavers, and what were the insights that led to your idea?

AW: In a nutshell, the overall marketing objective was to increase hearing test bookings at Specsavers by 5%, and in the process build Specsavers' reputation as an audiology expert as much as sight, which is their core identity. We first looked at existing work in the industry and from other brands and why it wasn't working – it was scaring everyone into ignoring the problem. There is a historical tendency to hold up a big scary problem and hope that motivates people to act, but – understanding how people work – that's not successful.

So we looked at how hearing loss might relate to real people, looking at data and research, using all our tools, and there was a conversation about mishearing that people lean into with warmth and humour, rather than trying to avoid. This led to the insight that hearing loss might be isolating and scary, but the idea of 'mishearing' connects.

MPS: So how did you build on that insight to come up with the campaign idea?

AW: We thought about how to bring out a mishearing moment in culture, and then had the idea of the world's first mass hearing test, using misheard lyrics. The audience is aged 50 and above and their peer influencers, and then their kids aged 25-40. We needed a culturally property that resonates with both audiences, and that was Rick Astley for us – he's penned the song with the most misheard lyrics ever, according to our research. He's known to the 50+ audience for being an iconic music star, and known to younger audiences through Rickrolling meme and his Fortnite activations.

MPS: What was the response from Rick?

AW: Surprise and intrigue – as a musician of that age who prides himself on having great hearing, there was a lot of interest as to how he might get involved. The idea that the campaign was designed to help people hear better resonated with him.

MPS: Ondine, what did you think when you first saw the idea?

OW: I loved it that it came from joy and laughter. Coming from a healthcare communications background, it's really difficult to deliver hard-hitting disease messages in a new way and reach people where they can receive that message and it resonates. It was an 'a-ha' moment around how healthcare can connect with audiences. That's the beauty of what we're trying to achieve here at Golin, with a mix of healthcare expertise and what Al is doing with the creative team.

MPS: Was humour an important element of the campaign and its success?

AW: I think so. To stand out and compete for attention, you have to be entertaining, so scaring people into engaging was not the one on this brief. Humour felt like a way to bring in the warmth and connect with people, and earn the right to keeping talking to them.

OW: There is a careful balance – in this space you can't come across as flippant. The messaging underneath the campaign carried the weight and support of a healthcare provider. Tonally, it was spot on.

MPS: Tell me about the process of activating the campaign

AW: Once we had made the track, we worked to release it across radio and social with no explanation, and waited for the world to react to the 'mass hearing test'. It had 20 million plays in first eight hours, it was crazy. Then we revealed Specsavers was involved and rolled out Rick and our audiology experts across media, with incredible results. It struck that tone of humour and mischief, but with a worthwhile purpose, that created a great story. All the other assets were deeper dives into Rick getting a hearing aid fitted, revealing he had suffered some hearing loss.

MPS: What were the most important results metrics, for you?

AW: We achieved a 66% increase in hearing test bookings for Specsavers, against the 5% target, driven through an earned idea. That is testament to the power of earned creativity, that it can be that commercially impactful – it surprised a lot of people. We also saw in the back end of the results a marked decrease in stigma associated with hearing loss, so it converted not only in terms of business but in changing the way people thought about hearing loss. When you look at how it played out, it created an amazing case for earned leading on integrated campaigns in the future, for a brand were marketing and advertising have traditionally dominated.

OW: On the day we launched, we could feel the momentum behind it. You know when you're onto something when it takes on a life of its own – it was everywhere. We knew at that point that it would exceed expectations, because we could quickly see the pull-through to enquiries.

MPS: Did you expect to win in Cannes?

AW: For me it had the DNA of a Lions winner, and when we started see the momentum that picked up through industry trades in the run-up to the festival and it was talked about in the same way as big bets on huge creative shops, that started to feel interesting.

OW: There was a lot of nervous energy in the weeks running up to Cannes, but you can't allow yourself to believe, and no-one expected it to win like it did. You never know necessarily what the feel of Cannes is going to be – it did feel like there was a move away from traditional purpose-led campaigns to humour, but you don't know what the judges will be looking for. It was the right time, right place and a lot of work behind the scenes.

MPS: The feedback I've heard from the industry has been so positive. What do you hope the impact of your win will be, both within Golin and the wider PR industry?

AW: It was a great win for us, but a huge win for the PR industry and that's what we're proud of. It represents all of the work the industry has done to get earned work to this place. I salute everyone for carrying on pushing it. There's also been a shift in mentality around the role of PR – in the past it's been enough to get a PR credit on a campaign based on an idea from a traditional creative shop, but for us that wasn't enough. We're now alongside those guys. As as a test of earned–led creativity, we were pushing to prove to ourselves that it was possible.

It's been lovely seeing so many messages from people saying it's a milestone moment for our industry. We've all sat at tables maybe not having the confidence to be at the forefront of marketing, but this is the level of sophistication we have now got to. I'd really like to see more agencies winning for ideation now.

MPS: What was the client's response to the idea, and your win?

AW: Specsavers loved the idea straight off from the insight. That's the key, it's an insight you can't argue with and it got everyone on side. It felt powerful, and posed a question that the idea and the brand could answer.

OW: We had Specsavers marketing strategist Rob Fox with us in Cannes and it was fantastic to share that with him, and we were in constant contact with Lisa Hale, the head of brand PR. They are thrilled.

MPS: What's next in your work with Specsavers? I assume they won't be putting out an RFP any time soon...

AW: There are lots of things in development. Not everything can be as big as a Grand Prix-winning idea, but the ethos at the centre of it all is that earned is now recognised within the business as a huge driver of effectiveness and taken seriously as central piece in that mix, which opens up a lot of possibilities.



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