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Fittingly for an event now so fixated on the state of the world and the industry’s impact upon it, the final press conference of Cannes Lions 2019 was dominated by talk about how creativity can address some of society’s biggest problems.
That was in part because two of the final four awards categories, the Glass Lions and the Sustainable Development Goal Lions, are dedicated to affecting positive change. The press conference included the jury presidents for both Film and Titanium (see the Film winners here and Titanium winners here).
Created in 2015, the Glass Lions for Change recognize work that “implicitly or explicitly addresses issues of gender inequality or prejudice, through the conscious representation of gender in advertising.”
Glass received a total of 193 entries (four from Canada), with just eight Lions awarded—one of which, a Bronze, went to Proctor & Gamble Canada’s “First Shave” by Grey Toronto.
Part of the judging process for Glass includes having shortlisted entrants present to the jury in Cannes. For its presentation, Grey brought Samson, the young man featured in “First Shave.”
“Hearing the story about how he got his father to come along was so gratifying,” jury president Jaime Robinson, chief creative officer of Joan Creative, told The Message. “Because it really was that acceptance in a nutshell, and I just loved it.”
That ad was a favourite of Robinson’s. “As a human being, I could not help but be emotional every time I saw it,” she said. “It’s wonderful that it sits at the nexus of the product truth, human truth and human behaviour. And to me, to see those things work together, it makes it so right for the brand.”
Part of the definition of the Glass Lions is “culture shifting creativity,” said Robinson during the press conference.
“It became our touchstone for what it was we want to award. And when I look at this Grand Prix I see culture shifting creativity in spades.”
The top award in Glass went to “The Last Issue Ever” by VMLY&R Poland for MasterCard, BNP Paribas and Gazeta Poland.
To tackle some of the culturally embedded gender bias and misogyny in Poland, the three brands bought a popular pornographic magazine, printed one final issue featuring empowering, positive content about women, and then shut the magazine down.
It was a “lightning bolt,” idea, the kind that all creatives strive for, said Robinson. And it was “transgressive,” using the system to change the system, she said. “I just love that it takes and object of degradation and turns it into something beautiful, and then says goodbye to it forever.”
She also praised “Boys Don’t Cry,” another Canadian entry that was shortlisted but failed to win a Lion. “It’s such a wonderful example of figuring out how the things that happened in the world happened, and then going back to the source and really looking for how we can fix that,” she said. “I also think the production of that, the choices that were made—especially at such a low budget—were so phenomenal.”
The Sustainable Development Goals Lions
Created only last year, entrants to the Sustainable Development Goals Lions needed to “demonstrate how they contributed to or advanced the [UN’s] 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development across people, planet and prosperity.”
Once again a piece of work that was largely created in Canada at McCann Toronto, “Second Chances” on behalf of Donate Life California, won a Lion—although it won’t be officially counted in Canada’s tally because it was entered from the U.S.
“It’s one of the top five, top 10 ideas of the year in our category, and I thought it was remarkable,” jury president David Droga, founder and creative chairman of Droga 5, told The Message. “It was very, very close to a Gold.”
“It was definitely a favourite in the room and one of my favourites. I loved it, because it’s so mind-numbingly simple. It’s something that can be replicated anywhere at any time and it almost asked nothing of anybody. It’s just an attitude change.”
It’s effective for a number of reasons and it’s the kind of message that scales organically, he said. “If that happened to you, you would definitely tell everybody that you know. It would make more people want to do it.”
During the press conference, Droga said the Social Development Goals Lions must go beyond great creative ideas and intentions. “This had to be actually proven that it was something that [had] genuine impact and something that can scale up,” he said. “This is stuff that is going to make a difference in people’s lives.”
The winners show that real progress is being made in the world, he said, but also revealed areas where more has to be done around massive societal problems such as poverty and hunger. “Things that we can solve,” he said.
Earlier this week, an environmental activist group called Extinction Rebellion broke through the Cannes Lions bubble by staging protests, including wading ashore at Facebook’s private beach, to demand the ad industry do more about climate change.
But Droga said he’s encouraged by what advertising is doing to address real problems. “It made me feel so good for this industry and where we are going,” he said. “These protesters on the beach have no idea about the brain collective and momentum we are creating as an industry.”
The Grand Prix went to “The Lion’s Share,” a program created by Mars Australia and Clemenger BBDO Melbourne that asks advertisers featuring animals in their advertising to donate 0.5% of the media spend to the UN to support animal welfare causes around the world.
“It was a program that was instigated and backed by a big brand [Mars Australia] supported and put together by an incredible creative collective,” said Droga. “They didn’t just put out a film about what they wanted to do, they actually set up a sustainable program, and that for us is what’s important.”