5 PR trends to watch in Cannes

You’ll find these major themes all along the Croisette.

Cannes Lions trends 2024

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has long been a staple of the advertising industry, but it’s increasingly become a key moment in the year for many PR professionals. The Lions now boasts 33 PR-specific awards across five categories. Hundreds of activations, from massive sports beaches to intimate get-togethers, will seek to grab the attention of festival delegates as well as the headlines of news outlets around the world.

Read more: Why Stagwell is going all-in on sports in Cannes

Tiffany Guarnaccia, Cannes veteran and CEO and founder of Kite Hill PR, says PR’s influence at the festival is only expected to increase, thanks to an industry-wide shift toward viewing PR as part of an integrated marketing strategy

“We are seeing just more demand and PR agencies evolving to meet the needs of the market when it comes to not just thinking of PR as just checking the earned media box,” Guarnaccia said. “But really thinking about the holistic campaign and the impact that we can have there.”

Guarnaccia shared some of the biggest themes she expects to emerge along Cannes beaches this year – as well as her tips for first-timers.


  1. An emphasis on the measurable impact of campaigns

As Guarnaccia points out, a firm understanding of actionable metrics has always been the “Holy Grail” of PR. And Cannes is increasingly celebrating campaigns that deliver not just stunning creative and big ideas, but real results that drive the bottom line. This is driven in part by the growing number of tools and technology that can bring together data points and weave them into a larger picture of impact on business objectives, Guarnaccia said.

“It’s going beyond earned media,” she explained. “There’s ways that we can think about how we’re tracking against other channels, and how that showcases the value of PR.”

Thirty percent of the overall score of entries in PR categories is based on results and impact, showing just how key the organization thinks measurement is to the equation.

  1. DE&I

Even as DE&I faces fatigue and rebrands in the United States, a focus on inclusion remains a growing part of the Cannes program.

“They’re looking at what’s important to upholding the standards of the conference and continuing to highlight things that are important to the industry,” Guarnaccia explained.

Diversity and inclusion are part of what the jury evaluates when judging the Cannes Lions, but Guarnaccia also says it’s reflected in the conversations and connections one is likely to find at the show.

3. Brand storytelling around ESG and purpose

As climate change continues to wreak havoc around the world, brands are having more and deeper conversations about their commitment to ESG and purpose. For instance, ACT Responsible Hall is dedicated to fostering “a collaborative environment and inspire action towards a more sustainable future” and Ad Net Zero will issue a challenge for greater creativity and sustainability.

But Guarnaccia warns that just paying lip service to ESG won’t be enough.

“The piece of caution that plays … is just really making sure that it’s overlaid with authenticity,” Guarnaccia said. “Looking at sustainability communications with any level of greenwashing, we’re layering it back to the tangible business movements that a company is making.”

4. AI

This is likely the least surprising theme you can expect to emerge. AI is a major conversation starter in any room these days, and Cannes is no exception.

Last year, Guarnaccia said that the dialogue was mostly around the experimental phase as communicators tried to wrap their heads around how they could use AI. But since then, AI has progressed rapidly and is powering real solutions.

Indeed, for the first time, entries to the Cannes Lions were required to disclose whether or not AI was used in their creation.

“The time and the results that we’re producing are more high value, highly creative, highly strategic … the other flip side is just keeping an eye on the regulations that are also still being developed right now,” Guarnaccia said.

5. Women’s sports

Women’s sports are enjoying an unprecedented moment in the spotlight right now, smashing attendance and viewership records. Some of that is driven by the emergence of WNBA superstar Caitlin Clark, who set the world on fire with her college performance.

“I think it’s a bigger movement, but (Clark)’s certainly a part of it,” Guarnaccia said. “And as we look at how brands are evolving their strategy, it comes back to aligning with their target audience, connecting with them in a more authentic way, and then just realizing the power and the impact of women on sports. And I think that also aligns to women’s purchasing power in different ways.”

You’ll see this trend play out with the Women’s Sports House, sponsored by Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment and Axios, which will host conversations with athletes and league leaders from sports ranging from basketball to soccer to autosports.

Cannes tips

If this is your first time heading to the south of France, this is the time to make the most of the opportunity by learning and networking. Here are some of Guarnaccia’s tips for forging connections – and keeping them up after you’ve returned from Cannes:

  • Not all events require a conference badge. If you’re on a budget and can’t afford to spring for the pass, look for other events that might allow you to rub shoulders with the big wigs without shelling out big bucks.
  • Once you’re in the right rooms and you’ve made connections, think of how you’ll extend that beyond the conference itself. “Think about a smart follow up strategy, high volume, lots of great conversations. How do you roll it into just like you would for a PR program as an individual?” Guarnaccia mused.
  • If you’re working on an activation, think about alignment and timing. Everyone will be making announcements during the festival – how will you stand out with your pre- and post-show rollout so you can maintain momentum?

If you’ll be visiting Cannes, connect with Ragan Communications. Register today for our exclusive roundtable and interviews

Allison Carter is editor-in-chief of PR Daily. Follow her on or LinkedIn.


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