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#TimeTo: Cannes Lions 2019 wants talk on gender, diversity to convert into action

Cannes Lions owner Ascential has taken steps to make the Lions less of a big boys’ club, and weed out work that perpetuates stereotypes.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jun 18, 2019, 10.01 AM IST
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Of the total 11 Indian judges at Cannes Lions, seven are women.
CANNES: Cannes Lions 2018 was the first edition of the advertising and marketing mega festival and awards that took place after the ‘Me Too’ movement blew up around the world. Lions 2019 is supposed to be the year when talk converts to action. Now it’s #TimeTo. An ad agency, Lucky Generals, is running a ‘Time To’ campaign that highlights the problem of sexual harassment during the five-day festival in Cannes. #TimeTo posters greet delegates at France’s Nice airport and in and around the main venue — the Palais. There’s messaging on social media and a branded sun cream.

Cannes Lions owner Ascential has taken steps to make the Lions less of a big boys’ club, and weed out work that perpetuates stereotypes. Lions 2019 has a record number of women on award juries. In 2019, 48% of jury members are female, up 2% from the previous year. Of the total 11 Indian judges at Cannes Lions, seven are women. A new record.

In addition to the ‘Objectification’ criteria, according to the revised judging guidelines jury members are also asked to consider whether the work represents stereotypical portrayals of gender, age, race, ethnicity, disability or other biases. The new creativity guidelines are the result of a collaboration between Cannes Lions and the Unstereotype Alliance, the industry-led initiative convened by UN Women. FMCG majors like P&G and Unilever are also part of the alliance. Filmmaker and Wunderman-Thompson India’s chief creative officer, Senthil Kumar, who helped create one of India’s hottest cause-centric campaigns this year - ‘Blink Test’ for the Jimmy Nelson Foundation, says, “We should be creating more ideas to unstereotype our society and collectively use the advertising industry as a force for good to drive positive change all over the world.” Lions 2019 also has a session on raising awareness around fluidity of gender and non-binary gender representation in Bollywood.

Today these storylines, which were exclusively subjects of big budget campaigns, which guaranteed an award or five, have entered the boardroom.

Equality, inclusivity and diversity aren’t just buzzwords anymore, they’re business imperatives. Says Josy Paul, chairman and CCO, BBDO India, the agency behind P&G-owned brands Whisper and Ariel’s award-winning ‘Touch The Pickle’ and ‘Share The Load’ campaigns; “Stereotypes are being broken everywhere and breaking down the stereotypes is releasing fresh energy and creating new desirability for brands.” Sales is an active byproduct, he adds. Last year, one of the big wins for India was a Gold Lion bagged by FCB India for the Times of India’s ‘Sindoor Khela – No Conditions Apply’, in the prestigious Glass: Lion for Change category.


The campaign’s goal was to transform an old Indian festival tradition that excluded women – widows, transgender people, and divorced women - to an inclusive celebration for all women. ‘Sindoor Khela’ is now in the running for an award in Creative Effectiveness Lions. One of heavy-hitters this year is Nike and its 30th anniversary ‘Dream Crazy’ campaign that sparked a global cultural controversy for featuring NFL backer Colin Kaepernick. As more companies find that doing good is good for brands, in response the Lions launched the Sustainable Development Goals Lions last year to celebrate creativity that has a positive impact on the world.

With all these changes, including transforming the awards track, Cannes Lions’ goal is to be relevant to a larger community. But, says Rob Norman, independent director and former chief digital officer of WPP’s GroupM, “Cannes was and is relevant. It’s relevance to creativity remains constant.” Questions about the traditional ad industry’s relevance remain though.

Indian Team Begins with a Bronze in Subdued Start
India bagged its first awards yesterday, a bronze Lion in Print & Publishing and another Health & Wellness. Both awards were for TBWA’s ‘One Mindful Mind’, a campaign for Neurogen Brain and Spine Institute. Indian agencies failed to win Lions in traditional categories like Outdoor and Design.

Despite a significant number of entries across new and old categories, just three Indian agencies made the shortlist cut in Entertainment, Entertainment Lions for Music and Industry Craft. Dentsu Webchutney’s ‘Code Name: URI – The Surgical Strike’ for the film is gunning for metal in Entertainment Lions.

The only shortlist in Entertainment for Music is Grey India’s campaign ‘The Barber Shop Girls – Shaving Stereotypes’ for P&G’s Gillette. According to creative chiefs ET spoke to, one of India’s strongest contenders this year is J. Walter Thompson India and Amsterdam’s ‘Blink And They’re Gone’ and ‘Blink Test’ for the Jimmy Nelson Foundation, shortlisted in Industry Craft so far. (The agency is now called Wunderman-Thompson.) An initiative launched by photographer Jimmy Nelson, the campaign amplifies his bid to preserve cultural diversity of communities across the world.

JWT Amsterdam’s Bas Korsten tells ET, “My hope is that we can amplify the existing buzz around the campaign, to make sure we deliver on our initial assignment: to create a global discussion on this important and urgent subject. Cannes is a great place to do that amplification, because we have some of the world’s best storytellers together in the South of France. We hope they pick it up and run with it. And winning a Lion or two has never hurt that cause.”

In the newly launched Entertainment Lions for Sport, Indian agencies submitted 19 entries. None made the shortlist.

Avoiding Plastic
Lions 2019 sustainability partner is Deloitte. During the fest, almost 150,000 single-use plastic water bottles are used. To avoid excessive plastic waste, Deloitte is giving away Closca glass water bottles with no visible branding and it launched an app that shows water stations locations so delegates can easily refill bottles. These might also prove to be ideal locations to gather water-cooler gossip.

Addressing Mental Health
A prominent storyline that has emerged at Cannes Lions 2019 is the worldwide mental health crisis -from social media anxiety to depression. In the recent past, a handful of brands in India including HUL-owned Horlicks and PepsiCo’s Mirinda have addressed in brand campaigns the issue of mental well-being among Indian students. The Lions, however, put a Kondo twist on the theme. It brought in Netflix star Marie Kondo to unravel the secret of Japanese minimalism for brands and its value in cluttered modern, urban lives.


Another session highlighted ways to destigmatise mental health across creative industries. As per the US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, suicide rates are highest for women working in arts, design, entertainment, and media.

One topic track that’s particularly relevant in our Instagram-filtered lives is the relationship between imagery and mental health.

Two new Lions added, Creative Strategy Lions & Entertainment Lions for Sport, after reframing and culling awards program last year.
But total entries (30,953) down 4% this year, despite Publicis Groupe’s return.
Total entries from India up 8% to 1053.

Cannes: Sonam Goes Chic In Plunging Neckline; Aishwarya, Priyanka-Nick Dazzle

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A Class Apart

22 May, 2019
Actress Sonam Kapoor was a vision in white as she walked the red carpet in a white tuxedo by designer Ralph And Russo. The asymmetrically draped tailleur featured an overskirt with a two metre train. She completed her look with a layered, emerald necklace by luxury jewellery brand Chopard and matching heels by Jimmy Choo.
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