Cannes Lions 2020: Brands become change agents

The Township's Karen Howe shares the latest from day three of the virtual fest, including the return of awards to the Palais.


By Karen Howe

Attending the 2020 Cannes Lions from my breakfast nook means I now get food for thought to fuel the morning. A thread that has run through many sessions is how brands can be effective social change advocates, and how activism harnesses the power of the collective voice. Edelman, Unilever and P&G’s Marc Pritchard all shared their brand’s thoughts on advocacy through action on Day Three.

Mind the gap

Dismayed by the Geena Davis Institute report that showed a lack of progress over the last decade, Diageo committed to normalize gender equality to drive change in our industry. Fewer than 12% of creative leaders are women. And while women make the lion’s share of purchase decisions, 55% of moms don’t think advertising represents them. Diageo joined the Unstereotype Alliance and has since made profound changes from the top down. It built a more diverse senior team, sending powerful signals from the top. It also created a Gender Portrayal Framework to guide creative development. And the company challenged its agencies to mentor female creative leaders and work toward resolving the pay gap between men and women. It’s a deeply thought-out approach. Diageo’s hope is to expand inclusivity in every way. Pay attention agencies.

The power of the phone

Activism is raging globally. There is no turning back the clock. Generation-anything-but-Boomer exalts in the power of their phone over the power of their vote. These mobile activists see it as controlling the narrative thus avoiding the middleman. They forge a direct path to their cause through socially-driven momentum. Social media continues to be the wind in the sails of the BLM movement.

Data snuggles up

Isobar’s Ronald Ng feels that creativity must be a team sport, with data, tech, strategy and creative all at the starting line, together. Collaboration leads to remarkable ideas, like Black & Abroad’s “Go Back to Africa” from FCB/Six and Initiative. Given e-commerce’s rising importance in today’s coronavirus reality, “quality of experience will define the winner.” In the new economy you can forget your wallet. Just don’t forget your phone.


And in the most ironic twist of fate ever, it seems there will be exactly one awards ceremony at The Palais tomorrow. The “Cannes-Do” awards, created by the Publicis Groupe and featuring work from the network’s agencies across the globe, will be handed out by Maurice Lévy and CEO Arthur Sadoun. Publicis, you will recall, pulled out of the Cannes Lions two years ago with great public fanfare, churning tremendous turmoil. Yet every year Publicis seems to creep back for an even greater presence on La Croisette, and this year is no exception. A case of having your gateau and eating it too? We’ll see.

Quote of the Day

“Niche is the new mass.”

– Kaaren Whitney-Vernon of Shaftesbury Branded Entertainment

IMG_4101Karen Howe is a Cannes Lions Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township.