Cannes We or Can’t We? - She Runs It
Thought Leadership

Cannes We or Can’t We?

By Lynn Branigan

I was simultaneously a Cannes newbie and voyeur this year, sending my team for the first time to the Festival of Creativity to host four events, while staying home to get married. From my distant perspective, and with staff’s eyes and ears on the Coisette, I found many reasons to be encouraged by Cannes, and also some reasons to be dismayed.

For those seeking encouraging examples of women’s strength in the marketing industry, there was much to celebrate.

  • Fearless Girl – a Wall Street statue created by agency McCann New York for State Street Global Advisors as a way to encourage more companies to put women in leadership – took the Grand Prix in the Glass Lion category this year (the highest honor in the category). It also won the Titanium Grand Prix at the festival and 18 total Lions. In fact, it is one of the most highly honored campaigns in the history of the Cannes Lion Festival.
  • The Festival made remarkable strides with the jury composition, with 43% of 2017 jurors being female. For perspective, in 2014 just one in five of the jurors were women.
  • For the sixth year in a row, Interpublic hosted a women’s breakfast during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. This year’s program, titled Expectations Aside: A Conversation with Extraordinary Women, featured such powerful voices as Maureen DowdGwyneth PaltrowDr. Mae C. Jemison, Pam El (NBA) and Katty Kay, as well as IPG’s Michael RothGail Heimann and Kristen Cavallo, US Chief Growth Officer for MullenLowe.
  • The UN Women organization was in Cannes to convene the equivalent of a Security Council of the ad industry. It called on the industry to use its “sophisticated science of influence, finely honed creativity and deep pockets” to shape and reinforce positive gender stereotypes (as opposed to the negative and “persistent images” that have created a serious barrier for gender equality. Global marketers like Unilever, P&G, AT&T Diageo and Microsoft joined the call to action, as did Facebook, Google, Alibaba, and three of the biggest agency holding companies. The hope is that advertising can do what more than two decades of UN proclamations, local laws and good intentions haven’t — spur real progress on gender issues.
  • “Daughters of the Evolution” was a panel that featured the daughters of industry leaders discussing what it was like to grow up under the care of successful mothers – learning from their career successes and struggles. A film was created by Lauren Greenfield, director of ‘Like a Girl’, that is worth watching and sharing.
  • She Runs It was hosted on the Teads yacht (thank you!), where we presented a panel discussion called “Stuck In Neutral,” – a conversation shaped by our recent career trajectory study; and an abbreviated version of the Stages Summit, featuring personal stories from Michael Roth (IPG), Dana Anderson (MediaLink), Pam El, Linda Yaccarino (NBC Universal), Lisa Donohue (Starcom) and Nicolle Pangis (Group M). We also co-hosted a panel of marketing and tech leaders – moderated by Pixability CEO Bettina Heinto explore the challenges of engaging GenZ as discerning consumers, empowering them in the workplace to become the next generation of female executives.


All the news was not good, however.

  • Research released by J. Walter Thompson and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media revealed that female representation in commercials (measured by number of characters, time on screen, speaking time, etc.), have not improved in over a decade. There are twice as many male characters in ads than female, and 25% of ads feature ONLY men, while 5% of ads feature ONLY women.
  • The most serious deficit in our industry is the lack of diversity, a fact reinforced by a study presented by IPG, National Geographic and female-focused media brand Refinery29. The Research found that marketing campaigns still traffic in stereotypes. And despite the hard-fought efforts to achieve gender equality, many feel ignored or left behind—especially women of color.

At a recent event in Chicago, a young woman stood up and very poignantly said, “I think it’s great that we are having these conversations, but we need to move beyond talking and start doing.”

I could not agree more. Yet I still celebrate the words and passions that ignite the actions. We need every voice in the conversation, and every heart in the fight, and with so many pivotal conversations happening at Cannes, I find strength and encouragement.