The Cannes Debrief: Actions, not Ads
20 7月 2020

View our Cannes Lions Live Debrief here

A small slice of normality was felt when Cannes Lions announced it would be taking its renowned festival online. For five hours a day during the week that would have seen the Croisette filled with industry folk waxing lyrical about the world-class content, we could turn all the lights on in our new home offices, pour a rosé and lose ourselves pretending we were on the French Riviera.

We have pulled out three themes we feel are prudent to focus on, as we look to H2 2020 and beyond, and highlighted the sessions we think you must watch, along with further recommendations (all clickable from the PDF). We also share our point-of-view on the theme; offering you solutions, tangible advice, and ways in which we can offer added value. The first theme we explore is called Actions, not Ads. 



Our industry’s power? The ability to shape the world we live in. In light of the current health and environmental circumstances, as well as cultural, political and societal events, the time has come now, more than ever, for brands to lead by example. With more informed and engaged consumers, brands and the advertising industry are now expected to not only embrace change but also create change and lead the way – a new and better way.


OMD Must Watch: We Are Pi presents ‘Before You Shoot’


We Are Pi’s CEO and strategist, Alex Bennett-Grant, took to the Lions Live stage and pledged to address the issue of racism when casting, describing it as “the ad industry’s dirty secret“. As brands are responding to recent actions and the Black Lives Matter movement, there is still slow, systematic change. Bennett-Grant challenges the industry to stop keeping silent when witnessing anti-black behaviour and being complicit in the problem. It’s time to stand up, and speak up, for what is right and wrong.

He stresses that this is not a call for tokenism – we need to take a fundamental look at racism in the industry, and how we can work together to find a way forward.

He advocates for 3 simple steps

• Speak up or be complicit
• Demand black (diverse) decisions-makers
• Demand a safe forum / create a platform for discussions




We absolutely shouldn’t underestimate the potential our industry has to profoundly impact the world we live in. Every day the communications we help shape for our clients, reach millions across the globe.
Undoubtedly the most meaningful and far reaching action w e can take; is through the work we produce. And, in truth, there is no compromise in striving to achieve a diverse and inclusive representation of the world we live in through this work. It’s clearly the right thing to do, but also makes sound business sense.


For a marketing communications company, this requires us as practitioners, to continually review every part of how we operate, from our people and processes, to the techniques and tools we apply, as well as the data and technology that fuels them.


Closer examination of our end-to-end planning process ensures we are always making good on this commitment. Developing business objectives and sources of growth, identified in the Ambition stage, that are inclusive and exhaustive. Delivering ways of working, as well as insight techniques and data sources that allow us to systematically deliver a more holistic and representative output at our Empathy stage. At our Craft stage, taking a forensic approach to the channel and contextual decisions we take to mitigate for bias.


And finally, during our Activate stage, ensuring we have an approach to measurement and optimisation, that captures and quickly acts on all relevant metrics. From a talent recruitment and development point of view, our RED (Recruitment, Engagement & Development) initiative is pushing forward ‘dynamic diversity’ within our agency, as well as in our relationships &collaboration with clients & partners.


Ensuring diverse & inclusive strategies and putting the consumer at the heart of all that w e do through ‘empathy planning’ is not only business-savvy but a fundamental value of ours – “OMD EMEA designs for better end-to-end consumer experiences that create more valued & valuable relationships between people & brands”. To help us achieve this and create tangible change, we have been striving to put together and use a full ecosystem of tools, processes, best thinking and practices. This will undoubtedly continue to be a work in progress. Please contact us to learn more about OMD EMEA’s capabilities to help you embed inclusivity and diversity within your current communications approach. We are here to support our partners to ensure that this approach becomes the norm for our industry.



BBDO India’s Josy Paul, ‘Discovering Your Unique Self’


Creativity and advertising is a great way to find w ho you really are. In this session, Josy Paul introduces you to three of his close friends: failure, rejection and embarrassment, and how these three outliers can help build agencies, cultures and  work that are celebrated across the world. With stories from his early years building David to setting up BBDO India from the backseat of his car in 2008, to the inaugural Glass Lion Grand Prix at Cannes, to creating the most effective campaign in the world. Josy reveals the joys of losing, and how you can’t break through until you break down.


“Dear White People and Men”


Stephan Loerke, CEO of WFA, interview s Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General, Executive Director of UN Women and Chair of the Unstereotype Alliance. In this captivating interview, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka shares a personal account of living through the overthrow of apartheid in South Africa. She recounts similarities to the Black Lives Matter movement happening today and calls for white people and men to not waste their privilege in society and use it for the collective good. Stephan asks what measures can be taken by the advertising industry to catalyse change. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka delivers a clear message in response: Brands standing on the side-lines are perpetuating stereotypes, diversity and accountability is paramount and “there isn’t any more time or patience for incremental change”.


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