News & Views

Opinion / The Glass was Half Empty

by Alex Jenkins
Before, during and after Cannes, the ad industry likes to do a lot of hand wringing, denouncing the purpose of the festival, crying foul on scam entries, and generally ensuring that all attention is on Cannes Lions for a solid month or two.

But away from the eyes of adlanders, something else happened in the Palais. There was a poorly attended press conference.

If you don't know much about the press side of Cannes, what generally happens is this:
award winners are announced in the evening but the press find out who's about to get lucky during the morning at a press conference. The media then get their stories ready to run once the winners stop being under embargo later that night. Between us, the Contagious editorial team sat in all the press conferences that week. They were all rammed. Every seat taken and standing room only. All except one.

The press conference for the Glass Lion.

I know this because I was there. This is the back of my head, front and slightly off-centre:

I didn't spend the whole time head down, typing. When I turned around, I estimated that there was around 50% less people at that one press conference than any other I attended. It was disappointing and odd, given that this was a new award and I'd assumed there would be a fair amount of media interest in it. Also, as an award designed to recognise 'work that implicitly or explicitly addresses issues of gender inequality or prejudice' – clearly a hot topic at Cannes this year – I'd have thought it would have stirred more interest.

But maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. Earlier in the week I'd been at a dinner with a number of other people from the industry press and I'd asked a few journos from large, well-known trade mags if they were planning on going to the Glass Lion press conference. 'No' they all replied, without hesitation. 'We'll just re-hash the press release later and pick up a few quotes from someone else's write-up'. Bold choice, I thought, considering one of those publications was also launching research into gender equality in the ad industry.

Meanwhile, I happened to be in the press centre when Kim Kardashian stopped in to take questions from the press. Guess what. Mobbed:

After the award show when Whisper was awarded the Glass Lion Grand Prix for its Touch the Pickle campaign, there was some rumbling about the ratio of men to women on stage collecting the award – i.e. many to few.

But few people in adland saw the ratio of men to women in the Glass Lion press conference: few to many.

Compared to the other press conferences, it didn't seem representative of the gender split. Again, disappointing that an award to address gender issues seemed to be largely being covered by women. Gender equality isn't an issue for women to sort out – it needs addressing by society as a whole. 

I asked the jury chair, the redoubtable Cindy Gallop, how long she thought the industry would need the Glass Lion:

'We hope there is going to be a lot of debate, a lot of discussion. A lot of eye-opening, frankly. And in a way that will drive real change within our industry, to drive real change within culture. That will mean that the Glass Lion will be obsolete in as short a space of time as all of us can make it. But the responsibility is on every one of us.'

Members – and men – of the press. That applies to you too.