The ad industry Cannes finally see women, but it still cannes't see old people

"Yeah," the old lion says, "You're young and beautiful and you're on the trophy. I remember what that feels like. But you have no idea what it's like to be me, do ya'?"

"Yeah," the old lion says, "You're young and beautiful and you're on the trophy. I remember what that feels like. But you have no idea what it's like to be me, do ya'?"

The hangovers have finally subsided after the global ad industry’s annual blowout in Cannes. Creatives—especially big winners—are basking in the glow of recognition and their agencies still feel good about those winning campaigns. At least, they will until the expense reports have been filed. And their Lion-winning CDs are poached by rivals.

This year, there was a new Lion award: The Glass Lion. It was awarded for the ad that best shattered gender stereotypes.

There were some high profile American campaigns in the running for the Glass Lion, including Proctor & Gamble/Always brilliant #LikeAGirl ad created by Leo Burnett. It took home an award, but the Grand Prize went to another great P&G campaign created by BBDO India. 

BBDO’s campaign (#TouchThePickle) for Whisper brand sanitary pads was a serious, long-copy assault on deeply ingrained Indian taboos against menstruation. I’m sure it totally deserves an award.


Thanks to the efforts of people like Kat Gordon (creator of the 3% Conference) the ad industry’s now got the message that stereotyping or flat-out ignoring women—whether in marketing efforts or in ad agency creative departments—costs their clients money and is just stupid.

The industry has, finally, realized women are consumers and not just models to drape over the hood of a car in a diaphanous gown or cast as a hot bartender in a star-spangled bikini top.

The proof is that “Like a Girl” ads won three Gold Lions. BBDO’s “Touch The Pickle” also won in general competition. 

So in the best leading-from-behind tradition, the ad industry has created an award to encourage something that’s already happening. Once again culture leads, commerce follows, and the ad industry brings up the rear. (Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying sexism’s dead in the ad business, but it’s showing signs of weakening.)

Ironically, "Touch The Pickle" portrays India's old women as completely locked into those old, outdated notions of menstruation. Only the young women are fighting that taboo. Now, you're obviously not going to sell a lot of sanitary napkins to the women in that video thumbnail above—they're long past menopause (another taboo topic!). But would it have killed P&G India to write in one older character who'd tell a young girl, "Don't be submissive, the way I was! Fight the taboo!"?

I guess I should look forward to the day that the Cannes jury presents the first ‘Wrinkled Lion’ award for the ad that best shatters the stereotyped views of old people in ads. Because that will mean that the ad industry has finally realized that its own entrenched ageism wastes creative talent and costs clients billions (if not trillions) in lost revenue.