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‘It sends such a strong message’: Madonna Badger says Cannes gender bias ban is huge step for industry

Madonna Badgers, chief creative officer of Badger & Winters and founder of the #WomenNotObjects initiative, thinks that the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity’s decision to prohibit work that objectifies women is “huge for our industry.”

Cannes set the new rules for jurors largely in response to a petition that Badgers created last year after the 2016 festival. After seeing work like AlmapBBDO’s campaign for aspirin, Badgers called on the event’s organizers to refuse ads that objectify women.

Speaking with The Drum at the 3% Conference in Detroit, Badgers said she believes that the festival’s decision to ask jurors to do a gut check around the respectability of ad portrayals isn’t merely lip service.

“It’s not just something in the packet, it’s something that they’re really talking about as being a true issue,” she said. “This is the event of the year in terms of awards and it’s international. It sends such a strong message that women need to be portrayed as equal in advertising.”

When asked what steps people who work within the industry can take to help fight gender inequality, Badgers said that it’s important for advertisers and marketers to speak up.

“I think number one is talk about it and discuss what objectification is, what it means and how it affects people. The real measure that we’re asking people to take is within themselves, within their own hearts and minds, and using empathy as a way of really understanding objectification but also really understanding the harm. Seeing women as sex toys has led to some pretty spectacularly bad research findings,” she said. “We need to talk about it and we need to talk about it as agencies, as the creators of the work.”

Badgers added that campaigns like GE’s recent Millie Dresselhaus spot and Microsoft’s ‘What are you going to make?’ ad are helping to move the conversation around gender inequality in the right direction since they raise awareness of the issue.