***FLASH***No wins for Canada from the first day of Cannes 2009

Three nominations for Promo come up empty, while PR and Direct juries omit Canada altogether.

Three Canadian entries shortlisted in the Promo category faced a tough jury and came up empty-handed in the first awards announced at Cannes 2009.

Proximity Canada’s ‘Doritos Guru’ campaign was shortlisted in two subcategories, Best Use of Digital Media in a Promotional Campaign and Fast Moving Consumer Goods, while Zig’s ‘Sound Cannon’ project for Scream TV got the preliminary nod in Publications and Media. The latter has also been shortlisted in the Outdoor category, the winners of which will be announced tomorrow.

The Grand Prix winner, a tourism campaign for the struggling, near-bankrupt Yubari City in Japan, set the tone for the rest of the category when it won in a unanimous vote. ‘The jury felt that it was an exceptional piece of promotional work, it not only was a program that changed behaviour, it actually changed people’s lives,’ said jury president William Rosen, CCO North America, Arc Worldwide. ‘It [also] featured a core activating idea that, transcending all media channels and categories, brought the brand to life in a unique and ownable way.’

Once a mining city in Hokkaido, Yubari rebranded itself around its distinction as the city with the lowest divorce rate in the country. The ‘no money but love’ positioning and ‘Yubari Fusai’ characters designed by Tokyo’s Beacon Communications (‘fusai’ means both ‘debt’ and ‘spouse’ in Japanese) to represent the city of happily married couples had newlyweds flocking and created an industry which has since brought the failing city back to health.

Rosen admitted that the jury was very tough in general – 44 of the 143 shortlisted campaigns nabbed a Lion, down five from last year – and specifically in terms of judging work in the categories in which it was entered. ‘A lot of work could have done very well had it been entered in more categories,’ he says.

Canadian Promo judge Janice Diner, VP strategy and creative at Toronto-based Syncapse Corp, said she was disappointed that more Canadian work wasn’t entered (30 entries were received this year, seven more than in 2008). ‘There’s never been much motivation to enter Cannes [on the part of] below-the-line agencies…I don’t know why, our work is definitely on par,’ she says. ‘I would have liked to have seen more.’

In the PR category, new this year, Tourism Queensland’s ‘Best Job in the World’ campaign won the Grand Prix, as well as two PR Lions nods. With a small budget, Cumminsnitro, Brisbane, created the contest to find a new island caretaker, thereby promoting tourism for the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef at every stage of the job search exercise. Ongoing coverage of all stages of the contest garnered millions of free coverage from major media. The Job Listing ads were quickly eclipsed by a groundswell of interest in the dream position, attracting applications from all over the world spanning myriad styles, from Broadway musical numbers to comedy. The chosen finalists went to Oz for well-publicized interviews, prompting even more tourism-centric coverage of the local assets.

PR jury chair Lord Tim Bell, chair of Chime Communications, UK, called the Grand Prix winner an ‘absolutely classic campaign,’ praising it for its simple idea and effective use of offline and online, with the major driver being video submissions online. He also called it a highly contemporary campaign, noting that ‘the business has become fantastically digital.’ He observed that people who hadn’t heard of it were a minority. ‘We think it was terrific, and by a long way the best idea we saw.’

The brand new category was created to honour the ‘creative use of reputation management by the building and preservation of trust and understanding between individuals, businesses or organizations.’ And the four judging criteria were strategy, execution, creativity and originality, and results. As in many juries, the advent of digital and interactivity can make defining a program’s core category more complex. Indeed, there was ‘lively debate early on’ among the jury at the outset to define PR parameters, according to Australian judge Naomi Parry, director of Black Communications, and since activating a ton of free media coverage is one of those elements, the Grand Prix winner is obviously a pure play PR program on all fronts.

Canada’s six entries did not make the shortlist for this new category, which had 431 entries in total and 18 winners. Judges advise that those interested in PR Lions next year should put together an excellent and memorable summary video.

US juror Carol Cone, chair and founder of the Omnicom strategy and communications agency Cone, says the discussions about what PR was came back with a ruling that it’s not just publicity, it’s the power to create dialogue and influence behaviour. And when it comes to cases, was the goal defined sharply and did the execution match and deliver results? The degree of amplification through news coverage is also a factor and determining where the idea came from was a common thread in deliberations.

Droga5 New York’s ‘The Great Schlep’ also won a PR Lion this year for its work with Sarah Silverman, activating Jewish grandkids to fly to Florida and advocate for Obama to their grandparents on behalf of the Jewish Council for Education’s presidential campaign contribution. Cone described it as ‘a brilliant mobilization of a group that could influence the outcome,’ adding that the ‘metrics were wonderful.’ The win in Florida’s margin correlated to the group they’d targeted. It also won Gold in Direct, illustrating category fluidity.

Canada, however, also came up short in the Direct category, where none of the 37 Canuck entries even made it to the final round. Again Tourism Queensland’s ‘Best Job in the World’ campaign won the Grand Prix, as well as two gold Direct Lions, accounting for three of the 38 prizes awarded this year, down sharply from 62 last year. Jury president David Sable, president and vice chairman, COO at Wunderman in New York, noted that the number of entries was reduced this year (1,364 vs. 1,697 last year), particularly in Flat Mailings, which have been largely replaced by work with a digital component.

Canadian Direct juror Philippe Meunier, creative chief, senior partner at Montreal’s Sid Lee, said that the economy could certainly be a factor, but also that the lines between categories are becoming increasingly blurred. ‘Direct is becoming integrated, it’s becoming cyber,’ he says. ‘Agencies don’t know where to enter their work anymore.’