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Laura Jordan Bambach: Can Cannes save the world?

Laura Jordan Bambach is chief creative officer at Mr President, a London-based independent creative agency. She has been a prominent voice in the industry for over 20 years, winning numerous awards for her work at Mr President, which won The Drum’s Agency of the Year and the AdAge International Small Agency of the Year while under her stewardship. She was also previously a president of D&AD.

Bambach is a strong advocate for diversity in the industry, and is the co-founder of SheSays – a global volunteer network that works to encourage more women in the creative industry. She is also the co-creator of the VOWSS, which showcases the world’s best work by women and the co-founder of The Great British Diversity Project.

Think of Cannes and it brings back a certain kind of memory.

That time when everything I brought with me was stolen from the Carlton Terrace at 2am on my first day...

That time when Gilly and I challenged ourselves to be as frugal as possible; and shared an oven-hot portakabin on a campsite in Cannes La Bocca, living off crémant and pot noodles...

That time the hotel gave away my room due to a delayed flight, and I had to sleep in the broom closet for a week…

True tales of the unexpected. I’ll tell you one day over a rosé.

But in the many years of walking the Croisette, I’ve always felt slightly ashamed. Ashamed of the madness, the money and the misogyny. It brings out the worst in our industry. And this year has had its fair share of issues, with sexual harassment on the terraces still in full swing. Wonderfully there were more allies speaking up about it too.

But for the first time, this year I’ve felt a sea change. From the winning work to the conversations on stage and at dinner, to initiatives such as Inkwell Beach and Voice of a Woman’s incredible Made by Her showcase - we are knee (or maybe ankle) deep in the waves of change. Google’s RARE programme, ‘See It Be It’ and WPP’s announcement they’re banning single-use plastics are all great things. And this tide couldn’t come soon enough, as we’ll be knee-deep in waves of a different kind in Cannes if our industry and the brands we represent don’t keep the focus on tackling bigger issues with what we do.

And the one thing I didn’t expect to see in Cannes was a talk by Extinction Rebellion the morning after their protest and arrests on the red carpet. It was a massive disappointment that this year they weren’t given a major platform at the festival, but their talk at The Drum Arms was so powerful it sucked the oxygen out of the room.

One of Extinction Rebellion’s key points was that biodiversity loss is even more of a threat than climate change (they’re obviously linked), so I was ecstatic that Carrefour’s Black Market (Marcel Fr) brought home the Lion for Creative Effectiveness, proving that committing to purpose works. 90% of all cultivated seed varieties have disappeared in less than a century, as laws intended to protect consumers have meant a monopoly for big agribusiness. With their groundbreaking (and lawbreaking) programme, they’ve done in eight months what farmers have been fighting for, for a century. Supporting farmers (and paying them fairly for) growing their own seed varieties, and selling their illegal produce. More than simply purpose, the programme has the potential to make an incredible change as they spearhead the law change in the EU.

Speaking of the climate, the winner for E-commerce is another great initiative delivering on mindful consumerism. Doconomy’s DO Black card is printed with Air-Ink, and has a monthly limit on carbon emissions (RBK Communication) rather than funds. They already have a card that offsets your spending, a great USP for anyone who cares about their personal footprint. Of course you can pick it apart (you can always use another card) but it makes a powerful statement about the worth of the planet over money.

The CO2 emission limit credit card - DO Black from Doconomy / DO on Vimeo.

How does a retailer remain relevant in the world of fast fashion, and reduce its carbon footprint? Clothing purchases have increased 60% in the last 10 years, partly fuelled by not wanting to wear the same thing twice in social media. So the Digital Craft winner, Address the Future for retailer Carlings by Virtue, provides virtual clothing collection that seamlessly dresses you for your feed. With all funds from the collection going to WaterAid, it’s a great first exploration into what needs to be a larger change in consumer behaviour.

And my favourite piece of work of the year, which supports indigenous people and knowledge in one of the most forward-thinking countries in the world. The Kupu app for the New Zealand telco Spark uses Google to translate what you see through your camera into Māori (Colenso BBDO). It brings together the indigenous and other communities through mutual understanding, in a playful way. In fact I saw people playing with it on the Croisette. Proof that a great idea, based in play as well as education, travels.

For all those privileged enough to be in Cannes who say that diversity and inclusion is boring, and caring about the climate emergency isn’t a priority, bollocks. We’ve only just started to sprint and we have a marathon to go. Next year take a leaf out of Greta’s book and take the train, get a DO Black card and offset your carbon emissions, keep an eye on what you consume. But most importantly bring the collective power of the advertising industry to bear on these insanely crucial issues. Our lives depend on it.

We’re all in this together and I’d challenge you all to get Extinction Rebellion in to speak in your agency - they’re easy to reach out to. And to join the recently created group of agencies in London committed to the environment.

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