French ad industry women stage 'alternative' Cannes Lions festival

Move aims to highlight lack of gender equality in adland.

Les Lionnes: one of the messages posted on its website
Les Lionnes: one of the messages posted on its website

Les Lionnes (the lionesses), a French non-profit organisation created by and made up of women working in advertising, is hosting its own take on the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Taking place during the official event next week, the "off" festival, dubbed "Cannes Lionnes", is seeking to shine a light on agencies that advocate gender equality. The organisation said this means work "designed by agencies that treat women fairly or more".

The Cannes Lionnes will feature its own awards scheme, the "Equality Awards", that rewards those identified as working on the most "deserving campaigns".

Christelle Delarue, founder of Les Lionnes, said: "The reality is that not enough women are promoted into senior-level roles or treated fairly at work. We are looking to connect with those agencies that advocate gender equality. We want agencies to fully engage and start a dialogue, and we will give a prize each day."

Winners will be published on Les Lionnes' website and Delarue added that activists from the organisation will be in Cannes each evening between 7pm and 9pm promoting gender equality.

At the start of June, Les Lionnes posted testimonies from women who were victims of sexual harassment on the walls of agencies while they were closed in the evening. The testimonies were taken from the organisation's website, where women are invited to anonymously share their experiences. 

Les Lionnes is made up of members from various countries, including France, Italy and the UK. Delarue previously worked at agencies including McCann Erickson, TBWA, Buzzman and Marcel, before founding her own, Mad & Women, in 2012. 

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