Soul POVs

When Education and Advocation Meets Advertising

Written by Joy Q. Wang

Can’t believe Cannes Lions is already over! The week went by way too fast with jam-packed days, along with nights. I want to dedicate my last day at Cannes towards gender equality and feminism, as this topic sits very close to heart.

Though the day was short, I managed to hit up two sessions that touch on the topic directly (Redefining Miss America in the Age of #MeToo and Can We Redefine Femininity with Creativity?), and one that indirectly affects it (The Strange Power of Confidence). Two overarching lessons come to mind when I look at the world we are in today and what this means for advertising.

Gender equality education is the key bedrock of how much anyone knows of this topic. Of course, it’s nonetheless a sensitive one – some are all for it and to no surprise, in this day and age, some are still against it. I truly believe that with the right education on this topic, people are then able to make sound decisions and have the confidence to express whether they support or feel indifferent about the topic. In the session about confidence with actor David Oyelowo, he teaches audience the 3 key components to gaining self-confidence. Those are:

  1. Self-awareness: to understand who you are and what the effect you have on other people (ex. As an actor, you learn a lot from watching yourself on screen)
  2. Being selfless: if you look at all the obstacles (using the example of a tight rope walker), you will end up failing. But if you can look beyond what’s beneath your feet, and have done the work to allow the beam to balance you, you have greater sense of what you are there to do
  3. Being self-taught: preparation and dedication (ex. The simple act of learning to ask the questions and arriving at an answer gives you confidence)

He explains that confidence isn’t always innate, it’s something everyone can learn and get good at.

We, as marketers, have the huge onus of educating ourselves first before tackling the industry on this topic. Like Katy Alonzo (Group Strategy Director of Droga5) said in the Redefining Femininity with Creativity session, when they were looking to strategize for CoverGirl, they did the simple task of asking their consumers and users ‘why they wear makeup in the first place.’ A seemingly obvious question can result in a world of powerful actions. This begs the question, are media/advertising companies and brands intelligently educating their own employees on societal matters that could be beneficial for everyone in advertising in the long run? Do these marketers know the impact they have on society as a whole and the ability to create a movement?

“Any statement we make on beauty is what we make on culture, so we have to pay extra attention to what we statement we make.” – Ukonwa Ojo (Senior Vice President, CoverGirl)

She urges brands and marketers to be more aware of the power they have on their industry and the movement they can create. She talks of how they tackle gender challenges by changing existing perceptions through advertising. It really makes me think about how we, as the advertising community, has such a strong and powerful say in swaying opinions, for good and for bad. Obviously, it should always be for good but that’s not always the case. I do believe that with education mentioned above and the right execution in advocating, we can move mountains.

How do us as marketers ensure we educate ourselves, our peers, and use our power of advertising to change societal views, dispel misconceptions, and elevate each other to the best of society? I leave you all with another powerful quotation from Ukonwa Ojo as she speaks to the audience of this session: “This is the audience that determines what the culture cares about. If we want to change gender equality, this is the audience that will tell that story.”

Quote of the day:
“We need to do 2 things – prepare great women for the world, and preparaing the world for great women.” – Leslie Sims, Chief Creative Officer of Y&R North America, “Redefining Miss America in the Age of #MeToo”

“Most times, we are harsher judges of other women than we are of men. It’s pretty much internalized misogyny. We need more empathy for what we relate to each other.” – Katy Alonzo, Group Strategy Director of Droga5, “Can We Redefine Femininity with Creativity?”

Highlight of the day:
Just seeing so many young female leaders fighting for equality on the big stage just inspires me. And they’re not just advocating to fight the patriarch, but more along the lines to educating males so that they too can advocate for overall gender equality.

We also saw David Oyelowo recite Shakespeare on stage with an audience member. J