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Empathy and Equality

By June 6, 2017October 4th, 2018Global News

The Golden Rule Comes to Cannes
Want to win the gold?  Follow the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Well, maybe it’s not really that simple, but this year’s juries at Cannes are beginning to use this ancient rule when judging work.  For the first time, empathy has been introduced as new criteria to consider while reviewing entries.  While past juries surely viewed the work and imagined their loved ones as those portrayed in the campaigns, making it a condition to achieving a gold medal ensures it will be taken seriously.

This is a continuation of the trend in recent years at the Cannes Lions Festival to address gender equality and diversity.  To implement this guideline, juries will sign off on every piece of work shortlisted – and the size of the juries themselves have been reduced, increasing the impact of each juror.  This is a great step towards making everyone involved in a campaign, from creatives to clients, more accountable for the work they produce.

Moving forward with the changing social landscape is one of several initiatives taken by Ascential, the global media company that operates the prestigious Cannes Lions Festival. In 2014 we saw the launch of “See It Be It”, an initiative that highlights senior female creatives, as well as the 2015 introduction of the Glass Lion which was launched to shine a spotlight on work that tackles issues of gender inequality or prejudice.

Along these lines, the festival has taken steps in recent years to steadily increase the percentage of female jurors, with the highest number yet in 2017 – women will represent 43% of jurors at this year’s festival. This number has more than doubled since 2013 when there were 20% female jurors (the percentage of female jurors was 28.5% in 2014, 31.5% in 2015 and 40% in 2016). The number of women holding the title of jury president has also grown. For 2017, eight of the 23 jury presidents will be women, that’s double the number in 2014 when there were just 4 female jury presidents.

Bumps along the way
The road to progress is never without its bumps along the way. Ideally, issues that arise can be turned into a positive learning experience.  Last year at the festival, one of the many parties thrown became a case study of poor taste when the invite stated it was for “attractive females and models only” and requested that all females interested in attending send photos of themselves to be reviewed before granting entry. The backlash was widespread and immediate, eliciting an apology and a commitment for more oversight of third party vendors.  Such corrective action, and the discussions it sparked across the industry, was the silver lining that came out of this situation.  Any reflection upon the actions we take and their impact on others will help ensure we continue to make progress despite any setbacks.

While it is important we continue making progress towards gender equality, our aspirations should expand to pursue equality and representation for all people.  Increasing juror representation from new countries such as The Dominican Republic and Vietnam this year, a first for both, is a step in the right direction.  As Terry Savage, Chairman of Cannes Lions, put it best in the recent announcement of the final juries, “Our juries are developed in consultation with the industry and the progress we’ve achieved so far by working together is transforming the jury gender mix. We know the work doesn’t stop at gender and we look forward to working with the industry to tackle other representation issues.

One of the most magical aspects of Cannes is the camaraderie. Everyone can contribute to maintaining it by being, and creating, an environment that is accepting, open and inclusive of all people. Let the issues that arise along the way shine light where it is needed and elevate us with each obstacle faced – and may we all continue to stoke the creative flames that are ignited with each year’s festival.  Peace and goodwill and happy Cannes to all….


Photo credit:  Elizabeth Abrams

Elizabeth Abrams, Freelance Director, Omnicom Media Group


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