As I reflect on this year’s PR award entries from the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, three themes rise to the surface: Brave is big, purpose at the core, and local matters. The following examples not only demonstrate the power of PR, but inspire us to all go deeper.

Do the brave thing Image

Brave is big

Today’s consumer thirsts for brave, creative approaches — for brands to take a stand on issues that matter to their customers and stakeholders. While the Nike/Colin Kaepernick billboard certainly serves as one such example, it’s The Tampon Book — this year’s PR Grand Prix award winner that continues to make waves across Germany and throughout the industry.

the tampon book image

Frustrated with the injustice that female hygiene essentials are classified as luxury products and taxed at a rate of 19%, while truffles, caviar and oil paintings carry just a 7% tax, The Female Company decided to challenge the law with the law itself. It packaged it’s tampons within a book (because books are taxed at just 7%), and incorporated a provocative message of gender inequality in the German tax system. By doing so, the online shop for feminine hygiene products sent a strong political message, ultimately causing the German government to reevaluate its tax structure. That’s the definition of a brand digging in and going big.

Purpose at the core

For years, TOMS has earned the respect and loyalty of consumers, because with every purchase of TOMS shoes, you stand with the brand on issues that matter. It’s simply not enough to “say” you believe in something. Brand actions must be rooted in purpose — and Aflac’s My Special Aflac Duck campaign serves as testament to that.

Cannes winner: Aflac duck

As a pioneer in the insurance business, Aflac sees the devastating impact of cancer every day and has invested 23 years and $123 million in the childhood cancer cause. But the company wanted to create an experience that directly impacts the 15,000+ children diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. annually. With four patents pending, lifelike movements and emotions, and a Bluetooth-embedded app, Aflac created the first social robot changing the lives of kids with cancer. Designed based on child-centered research with children, families and caregivers, it blends the best of toys, robotics, apps and gaming in novel ways to ensure kids experience a joyous companion during their cancer journey. To date, 3,100 ducks have been donated to kids at 143 childhood cancer facilities in 44 states. And the real impact is in the social-emotional support.

Local matters

As the leader of an agency that prides itself in hyperlocal expertise, I was especially moved by the local nature of entrants at Cannes Lions. There were entries of all shapes and sizes, and from all corners of the world. It serves as a very clear message that the most compelling work doesn’t always have to play on the global stage. In fact, many of the most impactful campaigns of the past year were created by brands and organizations at the local level.

Cannes winner: truck art

For example, Berger Paints tapped into a popular Pakistani art form — known as Truck Art — to help locate missing children. Berger teamed up with the artists behind the country’s many elaborately decorated transport trucks to replace floral patterns and other designs with the faces of the more than 3,000 Pakistani children who go missing annually. Within a span of just four weeks, the Roshni Helpline received 1,015 calls, 104 leads and recovered three children. What an extraordinary example of a brand collaborating to drive awareness and change on a local level.

Brave is big. Purpose at the core. Local matters. All recurring themes across the most profound brand campaigns on display this year at Cannes Lions. Reminders that establishing relevancy with consumers is about more than just the products on the shelves.