Gender's on the agenda at a festival with few females on the podium
As 13,500 delegates from around the globe gathered at the Cannes Lions creative festival, to celebrate the best that adland can offer, one thing was noticeable on the French Riviera.
Almost every award-winning team on the festival stage to accept a prestigious Cannes Lion mainly comprised men. Teams were often 100pc male, although we did get the odd glimpse of one or two females.
Actress and filmmaker Samantha Morton was onstage to be interviewed by Jefferson Hack, the aptly-named founding editor of monthly British style magazine 'Dazed', to discuss her career and the fact that only 6pc of the top 250 films in 2013 were directed by women.
The Cannes Lions itself is not only highlighting the issue through talks and seminars, it is also leading the 'See It. Be It' initiative. A three-day intensive programme, it was launched at last year's festival. The programme seeks to address the under-representation of women working in creative agencies.
'See It. Be It' was championed by Sheryl Sandberg's LeanIn organisation and this year Cannes introduced the Glass Lion: The Lion for Change. It's an award in a new category for campaigns addressing gender inequality and prejudice. The category attracted 166 entries.
Referring to the Glass Lion, Sandberg said "you can't be what you can't see. If our messages to men and to women - portray equality, we will help create a more equal world".
Jury president Cindy Gallop spoke about the need for debate and cultural change. The British ad consultant and founder of the IfWeRanTheWorld and MakeLoveNotPorn ventures addressed delegates with the cry - "tweet the s**t out of this".
Yours truly is proud to say I tweeted her comment @cindygallop and she retweeted it. She wanted everyone at Cannes to know how much the gender agenda matters.
So, what won the inaugural Glass Lion grand prix? Drum roll... An idea for Procter & Gamble's Whispers sanitary protection brand for a campaign called 'Touch the Pickle'. The ad agency which created the campaign was BBDO India.
In India, menstruation is treated as a shameful curse, and women are discouraged from partaking in social activities. In Indian homes, it's popular to have pickles in a jar, but when a woman is menstruating they can't touch the jar as the pickles might rot. I kid you not.
In the campaign, an active teenage girl touches a jar and proclaims: "I touched the pickle jar", as other women applaud. A voice-over urges: "Girls, let's make the taboos go away and touch the pickle jar."
The campaign went viral with 2.9 million women pledging support online but, more importantly, Whisper's share of voice hightailed from 21pc to 91pc. Mind you, I'd suggest the brand name Whispers isn't too helpful in lowering taboos as it suggests a hush-hush secrecy. Perhaps P&G might rebrand to Shout to move perceptions on too. Closer to home, those involved in Irish advertising still have work to do on gender inequality. In IAPI member agencies, we have just 22pc females on agency boards, the latest IAPI Industry Census 2015 indicates. The hope for the future is that we may not need gender inequality campaigns in adland - whether it be at Cannes or in Ireland. Let's keep our fingers crossed the change comes about sooner rather than later. Merci beaucoup, Cannes Lions. It was a brilliant creative week.
Orlaith Blaney is CEO of McCannBlue and president of the Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland