Stage performances by the transgender Brooke Bond Red Label 6 Pack Band on Monday came in for high praise and appreciation at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2017, reaffirming the diversity agenda of the festival.
“We were delighted that Brooke Bond’s 6 Pack Band could perform at the Cannes Lions after winning the Grand Prix Glass Lion last year. The band is challenging stereotypes, spreading the message of inclusiveness and encouraging people to break down barriers over a cup of tea. As part of Unilever’s movement to #Unstereotype advertising, Brooke Bond is showing that ads which spark debate and address local tensions can be a powerful force for change,” said Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Unilever, who also tweeted a picture of the band’s performance on Monday afternoon.
The band was introduced on stage by Nilufar Fowler, Global Client Lead, Mindshare, before the ‘Talent without Prejudice’ panel discussion on equality without filters. Answering a question from her, a band member said, “Personally, our whole life has changed. Today, our community feels proud that we are doing this. And people who used to harass us now call us superstars from the 6 Pack Band.”
Shameer Tandon, MD of Music Boutique, that curates the band, spoke of the trials and tribulations faced by band members, and how things are slowly changing for the transgender community. “The entire community has now gone a level above what they used to be. For example, in a lot of places within India, local elected politicians are from the transgender community. Government and even tribal establishments have started recruiting them. More than anything, the millennials, the younger generation, is in love with them - they can go out for coffee or a drink with them, and they think it’s cool to be seen with them, which earlier generations considered a social stigma. It’s been a complete paradigm shift. For that, I want to express our gratitude to the Indian offices of Mindshare which has been working with us very closely for the last two years,” he said.
In the evening, the band performed before a full house at the beginning of the Awards Ceremony, winning huge applause.
‘Bajao Taali’ for the Band’s performance
Describing how the idea of the 6 Pack Band had evolved at the advertiser’s end, Gaurav Jeet Singh, Head Media Services- South Asia at Hindustan Unilever, said, “The glitzy effortless performance of the Brooke Bond Red Label 6 Pack Band at Cannes is the culmination of a two-year journey. YFilms’ idea of India’s first transgender band received its raison d'être in Brooke Bond Red Label Tea’s purpose of making the world a more welcoming place. Pitched at HUL’s Content Day- 2015, the idea got bigger every passing day, with some of the most iconic names from Bollywood joining hands with the band to make the world a more welcoming place. The execution of the idea by the teams at HUL, Mindshare and YFilms has been brilliant and the performance at Cannes is the icing on the cake. A big cheer to the stars of Brooke Bond Red Label 6 Pack Band, Bajao Taali!”
Commenting on the band’s performance, Ashish Sehgal, COO, Zee Unimedia, who watched it at the Palais des Festival’s Debussy Theatre on Monday, said, “It is one of the most wonderful things that India has made it possible to bring in this year. In our country, where we are still struggling to get women their rights, and increase awareness about gender parity, this campaign courtesy the Brooke Bond Red Label 6 Pack Band will make a difference to the lives of those belonging to the third gender. It has brought so much change in their lives, and it has already become iconic, holding up their voices to society. Bringing it right up to Cannes will make it more international and hold up their voice to the whole world, and thus spread the message across the world on what they have been able to change in the most vicious cultures. I think it’s a wonderful job. And members of the band were obviously very proud to be here at Cannes, and it showed in their performance as well as when they spoke about how they are leading the change in society.”
Also in the audience was Laila Gunasekere of Dentsu Grant Media, Sri Lanka who said that she had attended the session just to see the 6 Pack Band. “I really came to see the 6 Pack Band. I think they were amazing. And their story resonated with me as a woman, and as someone who has been in advertising for a long time. I had read about them, and what they stand for is marvellous,” Gunasekere said.
Himanshu Shekhar, CEO, Indonesia and South East Asia, Mindshare, called it “a ground-breaking idea and a courageous decision by Mindshare and Unilever to bring the band to Cannes”. “A good idea brings success to brands; however great ideas not just make a brand successful but also make a social impression. This idea has transformed people at the margin of society as mainstream pop culture icons. This idea will remain a beacon of original thinking in Indian media,” he observed.