Gender, diversity and poverty: a Lions agenda hungry for change

Clockwise from left; Madonna Badger, David Beasley, Gabriela Lungu, Yvonne Orji, Sir John Hegarty, Shiva Raichandani, Todd Kaplan, Evin Shutt, Jaime Robinson, and John Sauven.

Clockwise from left; Madonna Badger, David Beasley, Gabriela Lungu, Yvonne Orji, Sir John Hegarty, Shiva Raichandani, Todd Kaplan, Evin Shutt, Jaime Robinson, and John Sauven.


Against a backdrop of political polarisation, widespread conflict and entrenched inequality, the 2019 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity will play host to a broad programme of initiatives designed to drive meaningful social change.

Among the most eye-catching is a collaboration between the Screen Advertising World Association (SAWA) and the United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP), a division of the UN with a mandate to eradicate hunger.

The partners have been working together for more than a year, with cinema advertising helping increase brand engagement for the UNWFP by 38% across 2018. This activity is supported at Cannes Lions by a fully immersive, multi-platform campaign demonstrating the power of using cinema to support global efforts to end world hunger. There will be an interactive exhibition on the ground floor of the Palais des Festivals and a seminar on Tuesday at 10.00.

Participating in the session is David Beasley, WFP's executive director, WFP country director Corinne Fleischer (based in Syria), and Nigerian-American actress and advocate Yvonne Orji of HBO’s Insecure. Also involved is advertising legend Sir John Hegarty who unveils a new commercial created to spearhead the next phase of the SAWA/UNWFP’s “Feed Our Future” partnership.

Other SAWA/UNWFP activities during the week include activations and touchpoints at major hotels, restaurants, and bars including: menu inserts, coasters, table-top displays, digital ads/displays, and social media — all promoting the cinema medium. SAWA and UNWFP isalso be featured within the festival mobile app.

Cannes Lions chairman Philip Thomas said: “The UN World Food Programme is such a vital initiative to address hunger and promote food security. It’s fantastic to see this inspiring, creative campaign come to life at the Festival and I’d like to urge our community to get onboard, as we work together to action the UN Sustainable Development Goals, now and in the future.”

Other important themes through the week include the issue of diversity in all its forms. LGBTQ is represented by a strand of activities across the week, including This Is What QUEER Looks Like, a session at 18.00 on Monday. In this session, Google Creative Lab’s Tea Uglow moderates a fast-paced chat about the importance of diversity with diverse, queer, atypical creatives.

Gender is also the focal point for the Glass Lion: The Lion for Change — now in its fifth year. A focal point of the Cannes Lions awards programme, the Glass Lion recognises work that interrogates gender bias and challenges stereotypes about the representation of men and women. This year’s jury president is Jaime Robinson, chief creative officer at Joan Creative US. She said: “In the past few years, we have seen seismic changes in the cultural conversations around gender, and with it, the way we portray gender in advertising. Brands are daring to step into unfamiliar territory, and the world is becoming better for it. But these ideas only progress when we, as an industry, put passion into progressing them. And that’s why I am so excited to be judging the 2019 Glass Lions.”

Further activities to address the issue of gender bias at Cannes Lions include See It Be It, an initiative that works towards equal representation of female and male creative directors across the industry. Launched in 2014, this year’s edition of See It Be It will see Spotify return as partner. Chaired by Madonna Badger, founder and chief creative officer of Badger & Winters, activities include a curated executive learning programme, mentoring sessions and peer-to-peer networking.

Young Lions Week also focuses on how “Creative Women Change The World”. Hosted by Gabriela Lungu, founder and creative leader at WINGS Creative Leadership Lab, inspiring creative leaders will recount first-hand experiences of female resilience, sharing short stories of women overcoming challenges in their professional lives and offering practical advice to younger counterparts.

Madonna Badger also hosts a session on Thursday at 15.30 entitled Rise Up. She will talk about the brittle borders that keep inclusivity, diversity and equality from succeeding, and how creativity has the power to change hardened borders into flexible ones, so that people are no longer vetted like objects.

Diversity is also the subject of Why We Don’t Need Another Diversity Talk, Monday at 16.45. This session is about taking action and creating platforms to — whether it’s focused on female, disability, non-binary, LGBT+ or BAME. Attendees will be introduced to people like dancer Shiva Raichandani, who are showing the world what makes them different.

Another highlight on this topic will be Getting Intersectionality In Advertising Right on Tuesday at 12.45. In this session, The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media presents findings about gender and intersectionality representation in global advertising. It will raise awareness of explicit and implicit bias in advertising, and its powerful ripple effects in the world. Participants in the session include Mars Wrigley global chief category officer Berta de Pablos-Barbier and 72andSunny partner and chief operating officer Evin Shutt. At the same time, Cheil Worldwide hosts a session in the Debussy, Awaken The Lioness: The Battle Front Of Asian Women.

Other sessions explore how brands in the broadest sense can be a force for good. There will, for example, be sessions looking at Sesame Street, the Paralympics movement and Vicks platform Touch Of Care. Hosted by Publicis with Procter & Gamble, the latter (Monday 11.15) explores what role big brands have in leading culture and whether they can sustain their role as a force for social good. It will do this by analysing Touch Of Care, a regional platform that has made waves in Asia, reaching more than 100 million people.

This subject is also covered in episode 4 of the new Cannes Lions Podcast, in which Philip Thomas takes a moment to explore whether brands should "do good" with SY Lau, senior executive vice-president, chairman of group marketing and global branding at Tencent, P&G's chief brand officer Marc Pritchard, Patagonia marketing director, Europe, Alex Weller, Michelle Melendez, senior director of global philanthropy at Global Citizen, and Gustavo Lauria, the chief creative officer of We Believers. A similar theme is explored in The Economist Big Debate, during which execs including PepsiCo vice-president of marketing Todd Kaplan explore whether companies should only be focused on value for shareholders or also factor in “value for the world”.

Iceland and Greenpeace’s banned palm oil protest ad is the subject of a session on Thursday at 12.30 featuring Greenpeace executive director John Sauven, while there is also an exploration of the morality of advertising in “Ethical Advertising In The Intelligent Era: Lessons From The Battlefield” on Thursday at 14.00. There is also a session with 3D printing activist Guac, who has made a stand against 3D Guns (Friday, 11.00).

Also important are the activities run by ACT (Advertising Community Together). Across the week, ACT runs an exhibition showcasing 82 of the most innovative ideas in support of good causes, responsible behaviour and sustainable development by 69 agencies from 30 countries. This is an opportunity to celebrate advertising’s best side at the industry’s most prestigious event.

Harriet Palmer