Cannes Lions unites for $100m cancer brief

Cannes Lions unites for $100m cancer brief

For an industry with competition baked into its DNA – from securing talent to winning new business and battling for awards – there was a rare display of unity emanating from the Cannes Lions Palais today, as a cross-industry coalition of marketing agency giants launched The Big C brief, an attempt to redefine cancer in the workplace.

Publicis joined forces with rival holding groups IPG, Omnicom and WPP, and global communications firm Edelman, to launch the $100m global brief to create a culture-changing campaign that could impact the lives of 4 billion people.

The Big C is the brainchild of Arthur Sadoun, CEO of Publicis, who was diagnosed and treated for cancer in April last year. He explained on stage how after making his condition public, he had received thousands of messages of support from people throughout the industry, many from those who had battled with cancer themselves and all the fears that came with it.

“For many the question that follows: what about my life? is what about my job?” said Sadoun. “This is an issue that affects all of us. One in two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Half the people in the room will be directly impacted, the other half indirectly.”

The outpouring of experiences shared with Sadoun became the trigger for Working With Cancer, an initiative launched by the Publicis Foundation at the World Economic Forum in Davos, which now has the support of more than 600 agencies, clients, tech platforms and media owners.

Working With Cancer is now inviting creatives to pitch ideas for The Big C campaign to help initiate change in the way cancer is thought about and managed in the workplace.

The winning work will run on World Cancer Day and the Super Bowl in February 2024, backed by $100m worth of donated media space and a $5m production budget donated by La Fondation Publicis.

Cannes Lions will help run the creative competition between July and September, with a jury that includes FCB Global’s Susan Credle, Leo Burnett’s Chake Sobhani, BBDO NA’s Luiz Sanches, Edelman’s Judy John and VMLY&R’s Debbi Vandeven.

Credle said: “It’s not a question of ‘why wouldn’t you do it? It’s more like ‘why haven’t we?’ A lot of times our industry fights each other, But this is an example of us doing something valuable and meaningful.”

The unique Palais briefing ended with an emotional message, read out by Sadoun on behalf of Suki Thompson (pictured, above), the effervescent co-founder of Oystercatchers marketing consultancy in London and well-known at Cannes Lions. Thompson urged attendees to cover up in the sun and to check your skin regularly.

Having been diagnosed with melanoma on her left foot, Cornish beach-loving Thompson explained it has since spread to her brain and her own cancer journey is coming to an end. Funds can be donated through JustGiving, set up by Thompson and her family.

Global brands already signed up to the Working With Cancer initiative include L’Oréal, LVMH, McDonald’s, Pepsico, Unilever and Walmart and media and tech companies including Google, Meta and Disney.

Arif Durrani is director of Reuters Plus, Reuters’ commercial content studio. He is also an international media consultant and freelance writer. He previously worked as Bloomberg Media’s executive editor for EMEA. @DurraniMix

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