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Why The Glass Lion Shines Out Among the Cannes Categories

Awards and Events 595 Add to collection

Karen Buchanan, CEO, Publicis London on why the ad industry is ready to shatter stereotypes

Why The Glass Lion Shines Out Among the Cannes Categories

Gender stereotypes in advertising aren’t much longer for this world. I say this with a degree of confidence as well as hope because, as attitudes slowly change, future generations won’t have the same limitations imposed upon on them when it comes to gender. Which means that marketing messaging that defaults to gender stereotyping simply won’t survive. 

Until then we have industry initiatives such as the Glass Lion at Cannes, a new award for work that challenges gender stereotypes. 

You could contend that the launch of any new category at Cannes defeats the purpose of the event, which was founded to recognise the best of the best – not work that simply fits within the confines of a particular classification.

This may be true, but I would counter that the Glass Lion transcends that debate. What it represents is a good deal more worthwhile than several other categories I could mention. It provokes the industry to not only put itself in check but also to actively think about positive change. If it makes even one brand step back, examine the pernicious myths it may be propagating and do something about it, then I’m all for it.

The only potential risk I can see is the temptation for brands to just jump on the ‘empowerment’ bandwagon. For all the campaigns that succeed in challenging gender stereotypes, such as Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ and Mercy Academy ‘s ‘Life’s Not A Fairytale’, there will be as many trying clumsily to shoehorn in a gender message, resulting in alienating the very audience they are attempting to engage. Brands and agencies need to remember that, regardless of the message, the same rules apply – you’ve got to be genuine, relevant and never underestimate your audience.

I take much encouragement from the news that the beer industry is finally waking up to the fact that its marketing needs to change.  Alan Clark, the chief executive of SABMiller, the owner of Foster's, has called time on the laddish image propagated by beer brands, saying that that such ads alienate women from drinking beer. 

The deduction that it makes commercial sense not to exclude or offend at least half of your market is perhaps something that we would have expected the industry to have arrived at a long time ago. But, as we work towards cultural change when it comes to gender representation, we need to celebrate all the small victories that help the sea change – the establishment of the Glass Lion is one of those.


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Publicis Worldwide, Wed, 17 Jun 2015 16:27:03 GMT