Hello from Cannes, France, where we’re attending the 66th annual International Festival of Creativity at Cannes Lions 2019. It’s been five days of inspiration, insights, meetings, and talks about the future of creativity. I honestly can’t decide what has been more dazzling—the French Riviera or the phenomenal line-up of speakers and people we’ve met. Here are a few takeaways from the event so far.


1. Accessibility and Inclusion are Hot

The world is becoming more accessible and inclusive, which is a great thing. The winner of the Design Grand Prix was Google’s Createability platform that brings accessibility to creative tools by enabling people who are hearing-impaired to create music and people who are visually-impaired to draw. Normally this audience has been excluded from the creative process, but Google has reimagined tools to allow more people to participate.


Also on the accessible front, Ikea won a Grand Prix for a suite of product adapters called ThisAbles that make it easier for people with disabilities to use its furniture. And Microsoft won a Grand Prix for its Xbox Adaptive Controller which enables disabled people to take part in video games. We love discovering all the new tools and products that make the world more accessible for all people, especially since we’re fresh off our deep-dive into creating ADA-compliant websites.


2. The Power of Representation

Gender equality and the power of representation were big topics in the festival. VMLY&R Poland won a Grand Prix for helping to buy out a porn magazine and focusing the last published issue on stories of powerful Polish women, sex education, and correcting misinformation it had previously spread.


The winning work for Ad Age’s 10th annual cover contest for new creatives had two very simple creative requests: communicate the power of truthful representation in advertising and design an image that demonstrates the impact of a more inclusive idea of beauty.


Along similar lines, Dove continues to double down on realistic advertising with its #ShowUs campaign with images created by a diverse global community of non-binary and female-identifying creatives.

AMV BBDO’s Viva La Vulva was a more controversial prize-winning campaign. The campaign’s singing and dancing vulvas attempt to combat the insecurities and taboos women’s genitals normally face, helping women gain confidence and shed the self doubt that can frequently hold them back.

3. Women Still Excluded from the C-Suite

A great panel moderated by the CEO of She Runs It, Lynn Branigan, mentioned the declining numbers of women in the C-Suite since 2015. Less than 30% of director-level and above roles are held by women despite gender parity at entry level. A much-cited survey noted that 60% of male managers felt uncomfortable mentoring female employees (in other words, 60% of male managers lack the necessary tools to know how to work with a diverse set of employees). They need training on how best to communicate with, collaborate with, and sponsor female candidates. 

This notorious picture was also discussed where two women CEOs were photoshopped into an image of 15 male tech CEOs instead of being included in real life. The discussion went even broader to discuss feminism and gender equality. And another big winner of the event was Stabilo’s Highlight the Remarkable campaign which highlights the women behind or in the shadow of great men throughout history.

4. Build Amazing Workplaces

Diversity in the workforce is good for the bottom line as noted in 2018 research from McKinsey showing that greater diversity leads to greater profitability and value creation. And an eMarketer survey notes that nearly 70% of 18-34 year olds are more inclined to consume media that features a multicultural cast. 


In order to build safe, fair, and dignified places of work for everyone, we have to have radical honesty and be willing to call out unfairness when we see it. We need to build empathy and figure out a respectful path to achieve our goals—empathetic conversations help create a better workplace. Create awareness about what your team’s blind spots and unconscious biases are. And give your team members the freedom to fail by building trust and accountability.


During one session, Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient, called for a complete renaming of the Human Resources role, saying, “We should evolve to a Chief Diversity Officer or Chief Belonging Officer.”

5. Marketing with a Purpose

More and more we’re seeing consumers with spending power decide to allocate their money toward purchases from brands that stand for causes they believe in, making purpose-driven marketing a hot topic. One great example is the Colin Kaepernick campaign by Nike that highlighted Kaepernick’s protest against racism while raking in prizes across several categories at Cannes.

Along the same lines, a Norweigian clothing brand created an all-digital clothing collection that could be tailored to fit shoppers via an uploaded photo, thereby raising awareness about the environmental waste created by fashion. And FCB/Six’s campaign for Black & Abroad, a company that specializes in travel experiences for black people, hijacked racial hate by responding to “go back to Africa” comments on social media with gorgeous images from all 54 countries within the continent.


One of my favorite projects awarded this year at Cannes Creative eCommerce Grand Prix, was the Do Black card, the first credit card to limit your carbon impact. The credit card alerts you to your carbon footprint and limits purchases based on the amount it will take for you to cut your carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. Even with this product’s award, there was still a protest at Cannes prompted by environmental activists who denounced the ad industry for not addressing climate change issues head on.


And of course, there was a bit of mockery (#freedroga campaign!) about all the buzzwords that came out of Cannes, like #StoryLiving, #WokeWisdom, and #PurposePushing. Let’s not forget to use common sense in pursuit of communication with our audience!

That’s it for now. We’re getting pulled away into a swirl of conversation and can’t wait to discover new innovative campaigns that will inspire us to generate amazing creative marketing for our clients. Au revoir!