The world of advertising, once a bastion of overconfident men, is undergoing nothing short of a revolution at Cannes Lions this year.
The five-day event, which is Ted Talks meets CES with a dash of SXSW cool, is typically about exploring the future of the communications business. This year, men could be forgiven for feeling under siege here.
On Monday, futurist Faith Popcorn will host a session called, “The Death of Masculinity and its impact on Creativity.” Hearst’s chief content officer, Joanna Coles, is also hosting a conversation with Whitney Wolfe, the co-founder of dating site Tinder, who sued the company for sexual harassment and went on to create dating service Bumble.
“Gender will not be an agenda,” screams a giant billboard standing in front of the iconic Carlton Hotel.
There’s even an entirely separate track of pro-women sessions at the Martinez Hotel put together under the name of the “Girls Lounge,” an initiative that’s popped up on the global conference circuit from Davos to South By South West.
On the docket at Girls Lounge on Monday is Axios co-founder Mike Allen, pollster Mark Penn and John Gerzemo, chief executive of The Harris Poll. They’re set to unveil research as part of a session titled: “The New Small Forces Impacting Women, Female Entrepreneurship and Gender Equality.” The organizers are launching a chatbot aimed at providing women with information about topics such as how to get equal pay.
Later on Monday, a Girls Lounge panel featuring WPP Group COO Mark Read will address, “The Elephant in the Room: Relationships Between Men and Women at Work.” The topic is perhaps an awkward one given the lawsuit brought against WPP by Erin Johnson, JWT’s former head of communications, against her boss, Gustavo Martinez, who is accused of using the word “rape” repeatedly among other threatening behavior that he denied.
The five-day conference, which features a variety of celebrities including rap stars Migos, supermodel Naomi Campbell and actor Tyler Perry, is known for its late-night hedonism: giant parties on the beach featuring DJs and soirees on yachts are the norm.
For employers, it’s a petri dish for potential sex harassment. Ad firm Interpublic Group sent a memo to staff reminding them about behaving professionally, according to Adweek. The memo from senior vice president of talent Joe Kelly noted: “When our work is conducted outside the confines of an office environment, there can be a sense that this isn’t quite work or that we can behave different, especially if alcohol is present. That is not the case.”