Behind the scenes to the Glass Lion and See It Be It – a chat with Senta Singerland
I bet you’re one of them.
One of those people who sees opportunities in doing things differently; finds that the status quo makes you a little uneasy; and is keen to make a difference in some way.
You want to shake things up a bit.
But it begs the question.
Although our industry is pretty incredible, it’s sometimes hard to find ways to keep doing what we love and still use our skills in a positive way.
But that’s exactly what we’re diving into in this month’s blog.
My good friend Senta Singerland, Director of Brand Strategy at Cannes Lions, has created a couple of fantastic initiatives that provides the industry with an opportunity to seriously shake things up a bit.
They are the Glass Lion and See It Be It.
Initiatives that work to solve the gender imbalance in our industry, and ideally start to redirect the way our society works, behaves and thinks moving forward.
This is a very exciting time.
So if you want a peek behind the scenes to the Glass Lion and See It Be It, and want be a part of that change, keep reading to see what Senta has to say. You’ll be glad you did!
TIE: Senta, tell us a little bit about you and your role at Cannes
SENTA: I joined Lions Festivals in 2007 after a career as a journalist, editing The Reel Magazine and writing for Contagious Magazine, so I’ve always had an interest in the ad world and in creative communications. I actually joined Lions as a producer, writing copy and developing websites and today, I am the Director of Brand Strategy. This means I work on the brand positioning and drive brand awareness of all Lions products and events. I try and keep everything we do in line with our mission, which is to campaign for creativity, and develop initiatives that enable that mission. Furthermore I seek out new opportunities for growth and drive the launch of Lions spin-off initiatives. I work with clients to help them develop social media campaigns, experience spaces, digital products and exhibitions around our Festivals at times too. I also do a lot of public speaking about creativity-related topics. I love that bit of the job because it means you get to travel, speak to customers all over the world and really get to see the bigger picture of what Cannes Lions does, could and should contribute.
TIE: Every time you and I get together I feel super inspired. Since I last saw you you’ve dreamt up and launched two pretty amazing initiatives at Cannes. See It Be It and the Glass Lion. Can you tell us more about how they came to be and what they are all about?
SENTA: Thank you – I feel the same!
About two years ago, my CEO (Philip Thomas) and I sat together and talked about the gender imbalance in our industry. I clearly remember his words: “Senta, can you just … do something? Just go do something, but make it impactful and brilliant.” Haha. So I talked to people, read a lot, got advice, tried to get to the bottom of the problem.
And I figured out that there are as many women as men that have an interest in working in advertising, that study it and start careers in advertising, but women don’t stay. At a certain point, women tend to drop out, and it’s usually around the point just before they become creative directors. So I selected 12 of those women from around the world, brilliantly talented creative women who we don’t want to leave this potentially powerful profession, and brought them to Cannes Lions. I called the programme ‘See It Be It’, because you can’t be what you can’t see.
We flew the women to Cannes, put them up and gave them a pass for the week. There I arranged special talks for them, organised a mentorship event, got them VIP access to all the talks and parties and set up meet&greets with speakers such as Sheryl Sandberg and Spikes Jonze. We spent three very intense and inspiring days together – but it felt like we spent three months together. They met EVERYONE, basically.
From meeting Sheryl, this idea of an award that celebrates creative that tries to tackle, to shatter gender stereotypes in advertising and media grew: The Glass Lion – the Lion for Change. She kept telling us how much impact this would have and we decided to just do it. We know that the work that wins at Cannes Lions is the work everyone wants to make, so celebrating this kind of work is incredibly important for the future of the industry.
We’re trying to tackle both ends of the spectrum: a lot of the media and marketing messages are informed by the male (often white) lens. Those messages present the same, often stereotyped version of the world that maintains the status quo. These messages direct culture. As long as the culture doesn’t change, the existent inequalities won’t either. So a more diverse talent pool will result in more diverse representation of people, and affect culture on a big way.
Plus don’t forget that 91% of women don’t feel that advertisers understand them. What a huge economic failure that is. Women are now the key consumers across all categories and not targeting them in our marketing is one of the industry’s biggest economic inefficiencies.
TIE: Can you tell us a story that stands out in your mind from See It Be It last year?
SENTA: Oh there are just so many. We all went to the Facebook villa to meet Sheryl Sandberg and when we got there, Biba (a girl from DM9DDB The Philippines) just stopped us all and said “Just act like you belong, OK?” And you know, we did belong. That was the beauty.
Erica ( now at from Droga5) said to me at some point: “This programme is making me realise that I can’t always pick my briefs or clients, but I can affect the outcome and I can say no to certain decisions. My choices as a creative matter so much.”
The 12 girls and I have formed a really special network and we’re still in touch almost daily about the most varied things: we send link to articles, send each other holiday pictures, ask advice, vent and when were in the same town, man we drink!
TIE: What would you say to agencies that are getting excited about applying for the Glass Lion award?
SENTA: To put it in Jury President Cindy Gallop’s words: “I would love to see this award drive the new creativity: creativity that is real, female-informed and that inspires young people around the world to want to work in advertising because of the impact they can have. I want people to go ‘The Glass Lion is the award I really want to win, because winning it mean we are the future.”
Because you will be. This is the award that will really show the impact that marketing messaging has a culture and that the communicators of today, the creatives, really are shaping culture in a big way.
TIE: When we spoke the other day you talked about the proceeds from Glass Lion entries being donated back into a program. Creating a type of a foundation to support other initiatives. Can you tell us more about this?
SENTA: I can’t share details yet, but soon! Basically we want to give this money to projects and initiatives that have the same mission: to encourage for gender-positive representation of people with the aim to tackle (largely unconscious) bias of gender.
TIE: What is your vision for the industry?
SENTA: That’s a huge question. Things are changing for sure, but the potential for creative companies and individuals has never been greater. I think we’ll move to a much more collaborative model with creative companies bringing solutions for brands that not only solve their communication problems but also their business problems. We’re already seeing agencies working so closely with brands on their purpose but now everyone is now looking at creative people to solve everything, and there’s a lot to solve!
I think other industries are becoming more creative too and so ‘creativity’ is no longer the superpower of a particular group of people. Creatives in our industry though have a very special gift in that they are meant to see the bigger picture. They are able to take something and add a layer of creativity and interest that makes it from a simple tool or thoughts into something that connects people, touches hearts and ultimately changes behaviour.
Agencies will have to change their business models for sure. Agencies aren’t always the fastest in figuring out how to change model and be agile. But we’re already seeing some figuring that out, and that’s really encouraging.
TIE: How do you hope both See It Be It and the Glass Lion will impact society on a grander scale?
SENTA: The impact for See It Be It has already been greater than I dared to dream initially after one year. Not only did it change the lives and careers of the women involved (not my words, they told me!) but it also inspired other women in the industry. Agencies have already started to take more note of the women they have working in their agencies that they don’t want to have leave.
I hope other industries will take note of the initiative and copy it. Filmmaking needs more female talent and funding for female directors, the gaming industry and tech.
For the Glass Lion my hope is that marketers will look at the winning work, and think “That’s the kind of work that I want my brand to make,” resulting in more gender-positive messages and a more real representation of the world, essentially.
I’m opening up nominations for See It Be It 2015 early April on canneslions.com/seeit