Holding up a mirror to consumers & culture | POV: Equality

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

While I attended a couple panels on artificial intelligence and machine learning today, the key moments of equality today came predominantly from the festival goers themselves. While there is a consistent balance of equal gender representation at the festival, I took extra note today during specific sessions as well as during meetings with tech partners.

During a session on chatbots with Twitter, Pernod Ricard, and Skyscanner, there was over 50% women in the audience. Most panels we have seen thus far also have female and diverse representation at the table. Compared to other festivals or conferences I have attended previously, Cannes Lions does a solid job at representing the community they are catering to in that there are diverse panelists, speakers, and thought leaders.

Likewise, during a meeting on social listening with our FAST team with social analytics company Crimson Hexagon, we met briefly with their CEO, Stephanie Newby. From a personal growth perspective, seeing women in STEM leadership roles in particular has been a key pillar of inspiration at Cannes.

Finally, we took a free moment to look at the work up for design awards in Palais II. A common thread in the work was hacking-the-normal to demonstrate everyday sexism.

With no surprise, Fearless Girl, the statue of a young girl staring down the bull statue on Wall Street was shortlisted. Less publically known work was equally inspiring. We saw the mergence of AR and gender equality with UN’s Common Ground AR experience that puts AR statues of equally notable women next to real-life statues of famous men. Given that there are no statues of real-life women in Central Park and dozens of statues of men in the park, this activation demonstrates the power of pairing tech with solvable issues like gender parity. After all, if you can’t see her, you can’t be her.

Next Nike was shortlisted for the equality signs, where the brand hacked everyday street signs to show female figures in athletic scenarios (running, playing soccer, etc.) instead of the traditional male stick figure.

Finally, Estadao newspaper in Brazil wanted to spread a message against-sexual harassment during Sao Paolo Fashion Week. The newspaper relied on the insight that 1/3 Brazilian men thinks if a women wears revealing clothes, “she cannot complain about being raped.” Taking that insight, they painted invisible ink on models who walked the runway at Fashion Week with messages of body-positive empowerment like “I Dress Myself Like I Want To”, “Cleavage Is Not An Invitation”, and “My Skirt Is Not Permission”. The ink was only visible when photographed and made for a shocking surprise when photos were posted across social media.

These four award-winning campaigns make clear that brand activations that hack cultural norms, ultimately holding up a mirror to consumers and culture to challenge what we know as normal and reflect it to be sexist, are winning big at Cannes.