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Talk to Jess at Cannes Lions 2023

Top Themes + Insights

Note from Jess: Please enjoy this guest post from my Director of Cultural Insights + Strategy, Shannon Rider

Hello, readers! I’m thrilled to guest author this blog post to share about our first time at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this summer. I lead our cultural insights work and have experienced firsthand the power of having a pulse on culture. Whether you work at a legacy brand or you’re a hard-working parent, cultural insights provide everyone with the ability to better understand others and meet people not only where they are, but where they are going.

Cannes Lions is home to the world's most prestigious advertising awards and is a time when agencies, brands, influencers, and experts come together to talk about the future of our culture. As you read these top takeaways, I encourage you to think about how these insights may apply to your world. Jot down the questions that come up as you read about these conversations. How might they affect your career, your family, and the content you consume?

The Power of Long-Term Community Investment

In our panel about Unstereotyping Influence with Unilever + Ogilvy, Jess and the panelists delved into inclusive marketing, social impact, and the future of influencers, shedding light on the need for brands to truly invest in the communities they wish to highlight and serve.

Jess emphasized that one of the formidable challenges hindering a brand’s long-term investment lies in the clamor for press coverage and the pressure to change partners regularly to garner that press coverage.

However, we know Gen Z possesses a keen ability to discern true commitment to a cause or a partner. When they don’t, you’ve heard us call it: SFSN (Sounds Fabulous, Signifies Nothing.)

Panel: Unstereotyping in the Age of Influence - Jess Weiner, Jay Shetty, Aline Santos + Rahul Titus

Rahul Titus, Head of Global Influence at Ogilvy, shared that their research actually found that brands that invest in longer-term influencer campaigns, more than 2 years, saw a 30% increase in ROI.

Esteemed Creator + Podcaster Jay Shetty, further underscored the imperative for brands not to merely hop on transient trends but rather display unwavering resilience, boldness, and an ability to embrace the nuances of the gray areas.

According to LIONS’ State of Creativity Study: 65% of brands are planning to increase their investment in building communities this year.

Ultimately, the bedrock of trust with consumers is built over time. We must never underestimate the profound impact that having a clear perspective on social issues and fostering an authentic relationship with the community most affected can have on our brand equity.

“You may lose consumers but you will also gain the right consumers for your brand.” Aline Santos, Chief Brand + Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Unilever

Check out Unilever’s Guide to Unstereotype Influencer Brand Content. This guide provides thoughtful questions for influencers to consider when creating branded content. This may be a helpful guide for the social + influencer teams when creating briefs.

The Future of (Un)Stereotyping

New global research unveiled at Cannes by Ipsos on behalf of the Unstereotype Alliance found that 73% of people report they regularly see or experience stereotyping ever day, yet only 30% will say something to disagree with it.

On the Mainstage at Cannes Lions - Smashing Stereotypes w/ Danai Gurira + Jess Weiner

The urgency around stereotypes in our media, marketing, advertising, and workforce was a persistent theme throughout our time at Cannes. In conversation with Actor + UN Goodwill Ambassador, Danai Gurira, Jess delved deep into the essence of personal courage and accountability required to move from being a bystander to an upstander and to instigate transformative change, both within organizations and in society at large.

“Upstanding is taking an action but not all of the actions have to be confrontational. That interruption, questioning, and curiosity brings you into human relationship.” Jess Weiner, Cultural Expert + CEO

Are We Ready for Robots to Stereotype Us?

As expected, AI was all the buzz at Cannes. We were surprised however that most of the panels on this topic neglected to address AI’s bias problem. There are mass ethical concerns with the fact that AI is developed by humans with bias and is a collection of data points that are full of stereotypes.

However, we know the toothpaste is out of the tube and AI is here to stay.

In the coming years, brands need to be prepared to have a POV on AI and to establish what their brand boundaries are on using it. By shaping your stance on AI, you can navigate the uncharted waters ahead and ensure that your brand remains aligned with your values.

Is the Media Failing Men?

A highlight from our experience at Cannes was a masterclass on better representing men in the media.

In recent years, we have seen a concerning regression in the attitudes of younger men towards gender equality coupled with equally concerning increases in mental health issues among young men, not to mention a proliferation of influencers promoting a reductive view of masculinity and gender equality.

Yet, we also see such enormous potential for change. We know that consumers want to see more progressive and varied depictions of men in content and we know that this is a great opportunity for brands to embrace and own this space.

New research from BBD Perfect Storm’s New Macho found that 66.5% of Millennial men say advertising and the media is likely or very likely to have a negative impact on how successful they feel.

The Linear Purchase Funnel has Collapsed

Jess joined Jackie Cooper, Chief Brand Officer and Senior Advisor, Edelman on The TrustMakers podcast to discuss the changing relationships consumers have with brands.

Newly released Edelman research found that 78% of Gen. Z say they uncover things that attract them and make them loyal to a brand after their first purchase.

Jess discussed how consumers, especially young people, are feeling more vulnerable than ever and are looking to brands for a sense of safety, security, and most importantly to feel seen. The real relationship with this generation of consumers starts after the point of purchase necessitating many brands to think about how they show up in the lives of consumers long-term.

As I reflect on the events and conversations throughout the week, I keep asking myself the following questions, which apply to both my personal and professional life:

  • How can I use my power and investment to support a community all year long and not just during cultural moments?

  • Can I be more curious and courageous in my interactions with others? Am I being an upstander at work and at home?

  • What is my personal perspective on AI and how can I ensure the content I’m consuming or creating is not filled with stereotypes?

  • With so many brands to choose from, which do I want to support and invest in?

What questions are you asking yourself?


Shannon Rider is the Director of Cultural Insights + Strategy at Talk to Jess and has worked at Talk to Jess for five years. She has a background in studying human behavior and specializes in translating cultural trends into business imperatives. She lives in Studio City with her soon-to-be husband and two children (fur-babies).


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