Cannes Lions

Blow-Up-Doll Protest Hits Cannes After 'Attractive Females' Party Invite. It's a Coincidence, Organizers Say

Party Sought 'Attractive Females and Models' Verified by 'Unretouched Photos'

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The scene on the Croisette in Cannes on Wednesday night.
The scene on the Croisette in Cannes on Wednesday night. Credit: Courtesy of Badger & Winters
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Passersby on the Croisette during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity are used to seeing a lot of strange things, but Wednesday night might have hit a new bar: Nine blow-up dolls in T-shirts labeled "Object," tethered to lamp-posts between the Hotels Martinez and Carlton.

The display, part of Badger & Winters' #WomenNotObjects campaign, came on the same night as a Thrillist and VaynerMedia party that was marred by an invitation seeking "attractive females and models." But Badgers & Winters said the events were unconnected.

The party invitation had been leaked earlier to women's rights activist Cindy Gallop, who set off a social-media brushfire by posting it on Twitter. "Ladies," the invite continued, "if you are interested in attending, please send us recent unretouched photos of you and Instagram or Facebook links for you and each of your additional female guests."

VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk apologized in a video, calling the invite the work of an outside party organizer. He said he was "mortified" and "upset" but accepted blame because his group had hired the contractor.

Thrillist founder CEO Ben Lehrer also apologized, posting on Twitter a letter to staff saying, "We clearly need to be mindful of how the behaviors of companies we are associated with can reflect back on our brand."

After a lot of social media feedback, Ms. Gallop then gave props for Vanyer and Thrillist for apologizing.

Badger & Winters principal Madonna Badger said the blow-up dolls were an art installation that was planned all along to draw attention to her cause. #WomenNotObjects did something similar at SXSW, she said. The group also handed out 1,000 #WomenNotObjects bags to onlookers near the dolls.

Ms. Badger said that while she was at dinner, three of the dolls had been lifted and one even ended up in a seat during a panel at the Palaias.

Given the retrograde party invite, was the #WomanNotObjects team really not tempted to target the Thrillist/Vanyer event? "We are all about empathy," said Badger & Winters co-founder Jim Winters. "That would not be consistent with that."