The ad industry's largest annual event and awards program, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, has agreed to caution jurors not to recognize work that reflects gender bias.
"Work that objectifies, perpetuates negative and harmful inequalities and gender bias hurts all of us," the festival will now tell all jurors in their briefings before judging. "The criteria for knowing if a submission is objectifying or gender-biased is empathy. Use your heart and mind to determine if the submission is acceptable to you. What if the person portrayed in image or copy was you? Or your daughter or son, sister, father or mother... would you be O.K. with the portrayal? Do you feel they are being treated as whole, human and equal, and how you would like to be treated?"
The new guidance comes amid a roiling conversation about sexual equality and gender bias in advertising, both in employment and in representations of gender roles in ads. And it results from a petition written after last year's Cannes Lions by Badger & Winters Chief Creative Officer Madonna Badger, who helped ignite the gender conversation with her "#WomenNotObjects" initiative started a little over a year ago.
The 2016 Cannes Lions included an award for Bayer ads by AlmapBBDO that were roundly decried as sexist. One, for example, said, " 'Don't worry babe, I'm not filming this'.mov" above two boxes of aspirin. They were so-called scam ads, created for the purposes of entering awards contests, and they were subsequently disowned by Bayer and the prize was returned. But their recognition at Cannes, and plenty of more subtly sexist advertising in the real world, helped fuel more than 1,000 signatures for Ms. Badger's petition.
"This will make every ad agency rethink the type of advertising they're doing and whether or not it's award-winning, and because Cannes is the absolute Oscars of advertising, they will set the tone for all the other awards all over the world," Ms. Badger said.
Philip Thomas, CEO of Cannes Lions parent company Ascential Events, whopreviously served as chief executive of Lions Festivals for nearly 10 years and ran last year's Festival of Creativity, said the organization worked with Ms. Badger to craft the new criteria.
"She's a hugely respected figure for the work she's done and the position she's taken in the industry, so we'd been talking about the best way to position this and bring it to people's attention," he said.