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Work that not only shatters stereotypes, but drives real, long-lasting cultural and behavioural change – that is what makes a campaign worthy of a Glass Lion.

The Glass Lion category aims to reward work that address issues of gender inequality or prejudice. How has the role of advertising changed in relation to these issues over the years?

When I was growing up, advertising played the role of reminding us of our place in society. As a woman, either we weren’t seen at all (in business, in power, in jobs outside the home) or we were represented as a gender stereotype (you’re a mom, a nurse, aspirationally thin and drinking Tab). The world has changed and we’ve come to expect our brands to connect with us authentically and with purpose. We want to know they stand for something. We’ve seen this impact on advertising; telling more diverse, authentic stories, showing us what we can be and at times, taking a brave stand. We’re now part of the conversation that is driving change. 

What, for you, makes a campaign Glass Lion-worthy?

The work has to expand the way women are seen and can have power in the world. Work that uses advertising’s powerful and far-reaching platform to drive conversations about: destigmatising the crippling shame around periods; disrupting media-driven norms around female beauty and challenging societal double standards on how we should behave and what we can be and do. Work that not only shatters stereotypes, but drives real, long-lasting cultural and behavioural change – that is what makes a campaign worthy of a Glass Lion.

Libresse – Blood Normal

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Above: Libresse's Blood Normal took home the Glass Lion for Change Grand Prix at last year's festival.

Are there any pieces of work [from this category] from the last 12 months that have impressed you in particular? Is there anything to beat last year’s #Bloodnormal?

I love Project #ShowUs (a collaboration between Dove, Getty Images and shot by women and non-binary people through Girlgaze), which created the world’s largest inclusive and diverse stock footage library, a category in need of disruption. Their aim with this project was to blow up the narrow definition of beauty. Advertising that goes beyond just delivering a message, but gives us a real tool for change is powerful. Another campaign that stood out was Project Body Hair for razor brand Billie. It helps to normalise body hair, brings the gender queer community front and centre and changes the narrative around typical femme beauty. The follow-up to #Bloodnormal from Libresse, Viva La Vulva, sends a great and empowering message – ditch your shame, love yourself. Not sure if any of these beat the shock, craft and simplicity of #Bloodnormal but are all doing a good job to impact change.

Previously, work addressing gender inequality (Touch The Pickle, Share The Load,) and transgender issues (The 6 Pack Band) has been awarded in this category. How do you think the Glass Lion category has evolved since its inception and what might it look like in five or 10 years? 

We no longer tolerate negative stereotypes in advertising, as is specifically reflected in the updated Cannes jury guidelines. This is a big change from 2015, when the Glass Lion was first rolled out. So table stakes are; we expect brave, bold ideas that bring long-lasting change. It’s not enough to just expose inequalities to win a Glass Lion, the campaign needs to provide a way for consumers to join the fight; by participating in social media, through a call to action, by the brand showing what they are doing to impact real change in addition to putting out a bold message. Exposing gender inequalities in advertising will come to be seen as opportunistic if brands aren’t actually taking a stand in the way they run and staff their business. 

I’m optimistic that in five to 10 years, we will have made enough progress on eliminating gender inequalities that the Glass Lion can move on to reward work that drives change around issues of racial and socio-economic inequalities.

Libresse Sverige – Viva La Vulva

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What do you make of the argument that adverts will never be gender neutral until there is equal representation of women among the top creative (not just management) echelons?

Different perspectives bring about more interesting, impactful work, which is better for the industry and culture, period. Women make up 85 per cent of the purchasing decisions and want to be spoken to authentically. So for now, with gender inequality still being a very real thing, you need diverse representation in the creative department to tell different stories, authentically. Will it always be this way? I think as we become more enlightened, have more exposure to different people’s experiences, creative people can tell stories on behalf of other people, even if it’s not their own experience. We’re not there yet.

In the wake of #TimesUp in the ad industry, how much change has this really brought about? What steps still need to be taken?

It’s been a wake-up call for all of us. From what I’ve seen at our company, the movement has enabled lots of very honest, open conversations, amongst men and women, that we wouldn’t have had before #TimesUp. The men in our company have done a lot of great listening and become powerful allies in this continued fight. By talking about the clear rules of conduct, it’s made everyone feel safer. Change doesn’t happen overnight, so we can’t allow ourselves to become fatigued and stop talking about these issues. Frequency is in the media plan – drive change by keeping at it.

 Change doesn’t happen overnight, so we can’t allow ourselves to become fatigued and stop talking about these issues. Frequency is in the media plan – drive change by keeping at it.

What is the most exciting thing about working in advertising now?

We have a huge and powerful platform that can drive cultural change. We have the opportunity to work with brave and bold brands that are willing to take a risk and have a different conversation that could drive change. And we are starting to see that change. 

Will you be attending Cannes Lions this year and if so, what are you most looking forward to?

I’ll be there. I love seeing and debating the great work. I’m looking forward to the “I wish I’d made that” envy, and the rosé, of course.

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