Brands use equality as a means for branding | POV: Equality

By Rachel Lowenstein: Manager, Strategic Innovation, Life+, Mindshare North America

All the brand beach clubs are setup and the Croisette is bustling with start-ups hoping to grab the attention of festival goers. Cannes Lions is now in full swing and we wasted no time today attending panels and activations. Two major panels on gender equality and diversity happened today on opposite ends of the Croisette.

First, we hung out at The Female Quotient’s Girls Lounge at the Martinez. We spent some time here at their lounge at SXSW so we knew we could expect top-tier panelists speaking about the future of feminism, including the responsibility brands have in both media and business operations for raising up female and/or POC leaders. The panelists at the Girls Lounge, including representatives from agencies, spoke about social media being “the ultimate exectutioner” – One panelist argued that Pepsi’s faux-activism ad might not have been so poorly received because of the way social media spreads opinions. I disagreed with this sentiment- Consumers likely would have felt the same way 10 years ago about it as they did today; social media just gives consumers a bigger voice.  It also gives brands a clearer ability in expressing their intent, especially when using intertwining activism in to brand messaging. While intent may be clear to the brand, when brands use equality as a means for branding, the purpose (beyond selling a product or service) should be clear to consumers as well.

Next, we ran up the Croisette to the Palais for Mindshare’s panel “Talent Without Prejudice”. The panel was truly representative of intersectional feminism, opening with the transgender group 6 Pack Band, created in Mindshare India for Red Label Tea, which won the Cannes Grand Prix Glass Lion last year. On the panel was a powerhouse mix of women with diverse viewpoints and experiences: Mindshare’s Nilufar Fowler, the original glass-ceiling-breaker Charlotte Beers, WPP’s Ida Rezvani and businesswoman Maggie Semple.

There was healthy debate around the notion of privilege but one underlying principle all the panelists agreed on was that while most men want to help, the “coaches need to coach”, meaning women need to be change agents and teach the men in their lives how to be advocates, mentors, and ambassadors for the women working with or for them. Ms. Fowler, a judge for the Lions, pointed out that there was virtually no submissions that puts the onus on men to do better (IE: campaigns around domestic violence urge women to get out, not to teach men to stop violence against women). Ms. Sempler urged the ad industry to use our unmatched art-of-persuasion skills and apply “the thinking that we use for our clients to diversity”. Posed as a question to the audience of why our industry isn’t moving faster, the entire panel agreed that the industry at large needs to work faster, but with a growing sense of impatience, there will be more and more “agitators” to disrupt the status quo.

With Mindshare’s dedication to gender equality, I have no doubt our teams will be the agitators-in-chief of the media industry to manifest positive change in diversity and gender equality!

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