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The Glass Lion: A Cynic’s Confession

26/06/2015
Advertising Agency
New York, USA
329
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Geometry Global NA CCO Bruce Henderson on what the Glass Lion really means for the industry

I’m not proud to admit it, but my first thought at the announcement of the Glass Lion category in the Cannes Festival of Creativity was not a charitable one. Another cynical marketing ploy to divert attention from the egregious underrepresentation of women in agency creative leadership positions and the award show industry, I thought.

I was wrong, of course. Not necessarily about the motivations of the Cannes Festival of Creativity, although I should add their motives could have been—and quite probably were—to do everything in their power to address this underrepresentation, and to encourage agencies and marketers to address gender inequality in the world while they were doing so.

No, I was wrong in thinking that the Cannes Festival’s motivations for the introduction of the Glass Lion matter that much in the end.

What does matter is this: at Cannes this year we got to see a range of work from around the world in competition to receive the first Glass Lion awards. We also saw a brilliant piece of work from India called “Touch The Pickle” receive the Grand Prix, but only after it had done much to change the perception of women’s menstruation from something unclean to something perfectly natural—in a nation of over a billion people. And that’s just one example of the potential that the Glass Lions have to inspire people to work to change perceptions in our business and the world at large.

What else matters? That for the past several years, influential women like Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Cindy Gallop of If We Ran The World and Kat Gordon of The 3% Conference have been working tirelessly to empower women in the marketing communications industry, and to address gender inequality in our business and beyond. And that Senta Slingerland, the director of Brand Strategy for the Lions Festival, championed the idea of the Glass Lion when Sheryl Sandberg suggested it.

It’s easy to be a cynic today, and perhaps especially in our business. What’s difficult is to believe that change is possible in a world that often resists it, and to work to foster that change, as the people above and all people behind the Glass Lions have done.

It was inspiring to be at Cannes this year, and an honor to be here in the inaugural year of the Glass Lions.  While the experience has not convinced me that women have a right to equality of opportunity and can make great creative leaders (I already knew that, as over 50% of our creative leaders at Geometry Global are female) what it has done is renew my faith in the power of communications to shift perception and behavior. It’s also reminded me that just a few motivated people can make substantial change happen in the world.

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