Brands need to walk the walk | POV: Equality

With day 3 of Cannes Lions falling on the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, we jam packed our day full of insightful sessions, thought provoking meetings, and left a little room for serendipity throughout the day. Our morning started with a breakfast meeting with the Washington Post to hear all of their latest updates in ad tech. The opportunities are substantial, ranging from voice tech to AR, especially given Jeff Bezo’s investment in the organization.

After breakfast, I got down to business at the Palais with back-to-back sessions ongender equality. The first was a panel called “The Journey of Female Leadership” with leadership at Y&R, moderated by Business Insider. While the panel was inspiring, there wasn’t anything fundamentally new about their discussion of the importance of female talent in the ad industry. However, given that women are more likely to rate their own performance and ability poorer than men do, even when their performance and ability is similar, having consistent conversations around leadership to reaffirm talent is incredibly important.

Directly after the first panel, we ran to the standout session of the day with Dame Helen Mirren and L’Oreal’s Adrien Koskas, discussing their ad campaign “Because We Are All Worth It” in partnership with the Prince’s Trust. The campaign’s purpose is to help young people battle self-doubt and turn it in to self-worth with the Prince’s Trust, which runs confidence workshops for youth in the UK. Beyond Dame Mirren, L’Oreal has employed a handful of confident, diverse influencers, each of whom has faced serious self-doubt, ultimately overcoming tragedy, hardship, and loss. The influencers have diverse voices and stories, including a young woman who survived an acid attack and a gay male beauty blogger who hid his love of makeup from his family for years before coming out. The campaign was born out of the original L’Oreal tagline “Because You’re Worth It”, which Mr. Koskas argued had lost its meaning. Ultimately, the brand shifted the individual “I” in it to the collective “we”, which is what unites the ambassadors in their journey to overcome self-doubt.

While the presence of Dame Helen Mirren was certainly a reason many attended the panel, the session was particularly inspiring because the campaign is one of few that actually uses diversity as a fundamental value and not as a marketing tool. With that, Mr. Koskas passionately argued that gender equality, diversity, and progressive values cannot be a marketing trend, but a business value intertwined “in everything you do from your products to your ads to your staff “. Dame Mirren supported this sentiment, stating, “It’s no longer enough to have the pretty pictures and the pretty words around doing good. Brands need to walk the walk.”

As we predicted before Cannes, brands that “jump on the bandwagon” inevitably fail with cause marketing. Intention is no longer enough and brands that use equality in media need to have purpose. Especially with consumer expectations continuing to rise and trust with institutions continuing to fall, sincerity has to be at the forefront and L’Oreal’s partnership with Prince’s Trust is a clear example of gender equality being done right. As Mr. Koskas said, “Diversity is not a trend, diversity is a value.”

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