When doing the right thing is the right thing to do


Issue 66: Doing the Right Thing

Freedom carries with it a tremendous responsibility to do the right thing. – Phyllis Robinson

There’s been a consistent trend the last few years at Cannes. Pro bono work has been winning more and more of the percentage of Lions. And it’s a good thing that we as in industry collectively care more about making the world a better place – lifting society to a higher level, as Bernbach said. But sometimes I wonder if we’re just trying to make ourselves feel good – about ourselves.

I’m not only talking about the “good work” some do just to win awards. (I’ve written about that one enough already.) It’s about truly caring about people, bringing relevance to people’s lives, treating them with respect in all the communications we create. Doing the right thing, not because it makes us look good, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Phyllis Robinson made that statement above in 1959 at an American Association of Advertising Agencies meeting. The industry was in the midst of the Creative Revolution and DDB had just begun working for Volkswagen. The creative freedom we take for granted in our business was still a new idea. They were very conscious of the atmosphere they needed to create in their agency and how important the personal growth of their employees was to the agency’s success. Phyllis was also talking about the responsibility we have to strive for excellence. To never be so satisfied with ourselves that we can’t see beyond our good ideas to even better ones. And to respect and value, not just our audiences, but ourselves and the work we create together. “The emphasis must always be on the excellence of the end product, not on whether you contribute 5% or 95% of the idea.”

And that’s what I love about so many of our good ideas entered in Cannes this year. The end product is even bigger than the idea. The amazing 100 Year Old Model Bo Gilbert campaign adam&eveDDB UK came up with for Harvey Nichols to celebrate the 100 Year Anniversary of Vogue, was right in every since of the word. Through print and their beautiful film, they broke the conventions of the ultra youth-obsessed fashion industry. They challenged ageism with absolute relevance to the product and the media where it ran. You can’t sum it up better than ECD Ben Tollett did: “The older generation can be fearlessly stylish too. Ageism is so last century.”

Our good ideas are working to bring actual change to people’s lives and to push us to look beyond what they currently see, to see something better. To look for value and respect in others as Africa’s “Invisible Talents” does. Refugees need our recognition more than they need our compassion. The team used LinkedIn to promote refugees’ talents and work experience – things that refugees must often leave behind as well.

DDB Egypt literally changed the meaning of words to empower women and created a movement across the Arab world. They rebranded the negative Arabic letter notating feminine pronouns to symbolize strength and freedom instead. And their idea grew in power as well – leading 2017 to be the Year of the Egyptian Women.

Gender equality looks to be a trend all over Cannes Lions this year. As part of DDB’s Phyllis Project initiative, all 12 participants will be delegates at this year’s festival and will be exposed to all the education, networking, and inspiration that Cannes provides. After just a few months into the program, these women are already taking steps to pay it forward in their offices. I cannot wait to see what they do after their experiences in Cannes.

Three of our Phyllis women are also members of this year’s Cannes jury. They received this honor on their own merit. We merely helped by remembering to check our own biases and nominate them. In fact six of our 16 jurors are women. And this year we even received the distinct honor of having Wendy Clark as Cannes Glass Lion Jury President.

Every year at Cannes we all do a lot of talking about the right things. I can tell you it feels a lot better when actually we do them.

ASYLUM COMPANY I Am A Woman Interbrand New York

Civil rights. Still fighting. 1968–

The Women’s March – Washington D.C. on January 21, 2017 aimed to call people to come together against injustice and to protect women’s rights. The Founder of the strategic consultancy Asylum Company wanted to create a grass roots message that would be memorable, easy to amplify and most importantly encompassed their deep concern for women’s rights. In 1968 ‘I Am A Man!’ was used as a declaration of civil rights against oppression for African Americans. Interbrand reproduced 100 of the iconic placards for women taking part.