UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon was the hero of Day 7 of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, making a successful ‘pitch’ for support for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the CEOs of Dentsu, Havas, IPG, Omnicom, Publicis Groupe and WPP, the Big Six holding companies of the marketing and advertising world. For the first time, the Cannes Lions stage saw Yannick Bolloré, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Havas, Michael Roth, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of IPG, John Wren, President and Chief Executive Officer of Omnicom, Maurice Lévy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Publicis Groupe and Sir Martin Sorrell, founder and Chief Executive Officer of WPP set aside their differences and come together, with Tadashi Ishii, Chief Executive Officer and President of Dentsu, joining in on video to launch a new initiative – “Common Ground” – in support of the UN’s 17-point agenda for sustainable development by 2030.
Ban ki-Moon brought the house down with his humorous comment on the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, calling it the world's biggest gathering of mad men. “I am here to ask for your help. This is Cannes, so I have come with a pitch. I know all of you have tremendous power to shape opinions. You are master story-tellers. And I want you to help us create the biggest campaign ever for humanity. Last September, leaders of 193 member states of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with 17 goals. If we implement these by 2030, all seven billion people on this planet will be put forward towards a future where nobody will be left behind. I ask you to use all your creativity, ingenuity, innovation and power of persuasion. Help us transform a complex and abstract agenda into personal, emotional and concrete walkable solutions, and make it your own story,” he urged.
BIG SIX WORK FOR COMMON GOOD
Dentsu, Havas, IPG, Omnicom, Publicis and WPP together have agreed to put their differences aside in support of a joint unique initiative to advance the 2030 agenda for SDGs. In a joint statement, Bolloré, Roth, Wren, Lévy, Sorrell, and Ishii said: “The Common Ground initiative recognises that the global issues the UN has identified transcend commercial rivalry. By working in partnership to support the Sustainable Development Goals, we want to demonstrate that even fierce competitors can set aside their differences in order to serve a wider common interest. We hope others in and beyond our own business decide to do the same.”
In a video statement, Tadashi of Dentsu said, “Those of us in the advertising industry are generally friends and rivals. The opportunity provided by the Secretary-General gives us a chance to join hands to realize new possibilities through creativity. We pledge our total cooperation in working together to achieve the goals of the initiative.”
On fighting climate change, Yanik Bollore of Havas said, “Climate change is a big issue we all agree on, and we won’t be given another chance to fix this issue. As CEO of Havas, I am personally very committed to climate change. But we don’t have any magic wands. But communications people like us can influence the conversations. By combining the best in creative and media, I am sure that we can create much more meaningful messages.”
On IPG’s focus on water as the sustainable development goal, Michael Roth said, “In 2015, we signed the UN Global Compact and we are committed to continuing that. We are in the midst of a global water crisis. And this is due to the population growth, and it’s just not enough sufficient clean sanitary water globally. We already have clients like Nestle, Royal Caribbean, Coca Cola, and of course, Unilever doing ground-breaking work on this. In India, we partnered with them (Unilever) on promoting hand washing for new moms. And it has helped save many lives. In Peru, with FCB, we developed an outdoor billboard that converted the humidity in the air to drinking water, and people were lining up to get that drinking water. Our commitment today is to use the creative talent that we have and put together a solution and a communicative response to what’s happening in the world. We will also increase the pro bono work in these areas.”
COMMITTED TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
On Omnicom’s focus on the SDG on education, John Wren said, “We are trying to create a powerful brand using commitments and efforts that each one of our competitor companies are already contributing in the young people and the talent that our industry already has. Education not only affects consumers, but also governments and the decisions they try to make. Education has always been the core of Omnicom since the beginning and we will put our brains and our very smart people behind to take it to the next level.”
For Publicis, sustainable development goal agendas are very important, and the company has been committed to them for a long time. On the focus on food, Maurice Levy said, “There are more than a billion people on earth who are not fed sufficiently. On the other hand, in the western world, 30%-40% of the food is wasted. So we are looking to try to help diminish the waste. Eating closer to where the food is produced. And be clever in sharing. We believed that there is something that can be done in order that we can share with the people who have nothing.”
On what common ground means to WPP, Sir Martin Sorrell said, “In conversation with Al Gore on climate change during a debate at Cannes, I asked him whether he would issue a challenge to our industry as a whole to embrace the issue of climate change. We engaged with the Secretary-General to see whether we could put together a joint initiative. There has already been an initiative with the Young Lions; they have embraced 5 of the sustainable development goals, we have another 2 and there is a competition around the best work surrounding the 7 sustainable development goals as a whole. We would also like to announce that we want to open up the whole issue of refugees beyond the six of us represented on the stage. We are asking other agency groups to step up to the challenge to help us implement the sustainable development goals in relation to refugees.”