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Don’t Let Sexual Harrassment Dampen the Joy of Cannes

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As the industry gears up for Cannes Lions after three years away, excitement is high - but leaders need to set expectations for good behaviour Kerry Glazer and Helen Calcraft tell LBB’s Laura Swinton

Don’t Let Sexual Harrassment Dampen the Joy of Cannes
It’s three years since the advertising and marketing industry last gathered on the Cannes Croisette and for those who are lucky enough to be going to Cannes Lions 2022, the excitement is palpable. But while this year’s festival is bound to be an emotionally-charged reunion and celebratory release valve after years of lockdowns, key figures behind the UK’s anti-sexual harassment movement TimeTo have warned that leaders need to step up and set expectations so that the festival experience is happy and healthy for all.

“This is the first time people are going to be together 24/7 for a whole week, and it’s natural that there’s going to be excitement. It should be a glorious celebration, we are celebrating the best of the advertising industry,” says Helen Calcraft, Lucky Generals founding partner and a key figure in the TimeTo platform. But despite this excitement, Helen and TimeTo chair Kerry Glazer suspect there may also be a great deal of anxiety.

In 2021, TimeTo commissioned research that showed that 49% of people expected sexual harassment to rise when the industry returned to the office, saying they worried the boundaries set down following the Me Too movement may have been forgotten and a worry about pent-up aggression. “We can only assume this is the same for Cannes,” organisers explain.

Previous TimeTo research has found that alcohol, travel and late night taxis feature regularly in incidences of sexual harassment. However, there are steps that can be taken by leaders to help discourage predatory or bullying behaviour - and to better provide support for those members of their team or community who do experience harassment.
In 2019, TimeTo ran a Cannes-specific campaign. You can read more about it here


First and foremost, leaders and employers need to set expectations for behaviour - and be proactively present for their teams. Ahead of time they should be explicit about what is and isn’t acceptable. They can familiarise themselves with and draw attention to the TimeTo code of conduct - and should make it known that they will be available for any member of their team who might experience harassment or bullying on the Croisette.

“I think they need to be very proactive and lean in and say, ‘if you experience something that worries you or that doensn’t feel appropriate, ring me’,” says Helen. “I think we need to be extremely proactive as leaders and if anyone’s feeling worried or they observe behaviour that doesn’t feel appropriate, they nip it in the bud - and i think that would be a new thing for Cannes.” 

One example of proactive leadership is explicitly giving your contact number to the team members going to Cannes and telling them to call if something bad does happen. That’s what Helen has done and something Kerry says is a great example of living and breathing the TimeTo code. “You are giving confidence to your team out there that there are no exemptions or special rules for people who are more senior. You’re giving them confidence that you are there, that you will listen, that if something happens you will investigate,” says Kerry.

But there’s also a role we can all take collectively - looking out for colleagues or strangers if they’re worse for wear or vulnerable, for example, or clearly uncomfortable. Being a witness and an ally when you do see something wrong - keeping eyes and ears open rather than turning a blind eye.

As an example of what everyone can do to keep the industry safer, Helen recalls the story of a young, drunk woman who appeared to be being harassed by a man. Another man, who didn’t know the woman but could see what was happening to her, stepped in and invited her to join the group he was with.

If the worst does happen, Kerry advises that the NABS helpline is open and free to call during office hours and it’s a number that you can load into your phone ahead of the festival. Equally the TimeTo.org.uk website signposts numerous resources, as some people don’t necessarily want to talk. 

‘We really want to say to anybody who has witnessed it or experienced it - or who thinks they might have done something and wants to put it right - to speak to NABS. It’s free, it’s confidential.”

More generally, Kerry and Helen encourage the industry to think more inclusively and to be on guard against not only sexual harassment but bullying of all forms. Pressurising people to drink more than they want to or cruelly picking on people can all leave individuals feeling diminished, excluded or force them into more vulnerable situations. Helen and Kerry are hopeful that the increased conversations around inclusion reflect a culture shift generally. 

“If Cannes is meant to be about fun, it shouldn’t be at someone else’s expense,” says Helen. “We’re there to work, we’re there to celebrate but that should ever result in feeling intimidated, scared, diminished in some way.”



For free, confidential and impartial advice and support, for anyone working in the advertising, marketing and media industry, call the NABS Advice Line on 0800 707 6607, 9am – 5.30pm on weekdays or email support@nabs.org.uk. Information about the TimeTo code can be found at timeto.org.uk

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LBB Editorial, Tue, 14 Jun 2022 16:43:00 GMT