The U.S. team won the gold last year. Will there be a repeat?

NEW YORK: In two weeks, Ketchum’s Patty Bloom and Rachel Carlisle will ship out to France to compete in the Cannes Young Lions competition as the U.S. PR representatives.

This year, competitors were asked to develop a campaign to drive donations for Brave Beginnings, an initiative that provides healthcare professionals with ventilators and neonatal equipment to treat premature babies in the U.S.

In their respective categories, each team was challenged to develop a creative and innovative campaign targeting women ages 25 to 44 that would increase name and brand recognition as well as drive new donations for Brave Beginnings.

Bloom and Carlisle devised a campaign that would partner with the Gerber Baby Photo Search and launch the first competition for a preemie Gerber Baby, Carlisle explained.

“Often times, when [users] see equipment [for preemies], it can be frightening,” Bloom said. “We wanted to take that away and see it as a force for positivity and hope. This would allow preemie parents to work with photographers to submit beautiful, artistic photos of the preemies. That’d be a good way to transform how people think about that equipment.”

The campaign will allow the public to donate $9 to vote. For spokespeople, Carlisle and Bloom entertained the idea of recruiting Anna Faris and Chris Pratt, whose son Jack was born prematurely.

“We were really struck between the eyes about their idea,” said jury chair Jennifer Cohan, president of Edelman New York. “It was representative of PR firing on all modern cylinders.”

Asked about possible controversy from pitting preemie babies against each other, Carlisle and Bloom emphasized authenticity and sensitivity in the hypothetical campaign.

“Thousands of positive images capturing the lives and miracles that are preemie babies would live on forever,” Carlisle said. “So now when people search for preemie babies, it will be an inspirational, aspirational image and [take away] the stigma of the equipment.”

“People often share pictures of their babies on social media,” Bloom added. “We talked with parents on Reddit, we did a survey. One thing we found was preemie parents don’t get to celebrate the same way and feel like it’s not recognized. This is a way for them to take back the moment.”

More than 350 entries were submitted for the U.S. Cannes Young Lions across advertising, digital, media, creative, PR, and in-house marketing teams. Each of the winning teams will be sent, all expenses paid, to Cannes, France, to compete as Team USA in the global Young Lions competition at the 64th Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which will take place from June 17-24, 2017. The PR Council sponsored the U.S. Young Lions competition.

Team U.S.A. took home gold last year, with a superhuman showing from Ogilvy’s Ben King and Michael DiSalvo, whose approach took a page from comic book heroes to promote the Variety Freedom Program among millennials.

“Do I think they can win? Sure,” Cohan said. “This contest is about the strength of the idea and presentation. They had a singular and declarative idea. They executed through a variety of means, but it was a clear and compelling idea.”

This article written by Sean Czarnecki originally appeared on PRWeek on June 2, 2017.