Year after year, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity celebrates the elite, the very best creative work from around the world. Like the Grammys and the Oscars, it's the gold standard, where we see an incredibly high level of production, breakthrough brand activations, and socially relevant advertising that tears at the heartstrings. But if we’re being honest, Cannes, and by extension our industry, is exclusive by design.
We decided to change the focus this year. As a new agency, we wanted to bring in fresh voices and explore a more inclusive understanding of what it means to connect with consumers—people. And where better to start than Cannes? That’s why we’re opening the aperture to focus on a new elite: Paralympic Gold medalist Ellie Cole; model, influencer, and disability advocate Lolo Spencer; and legally blind director James Rath. We asked them to share their perspectives and help us see our industry through new eyes.
So, how do they see things differently?
Lolo Spencer, disability lifestyle influencer, actress, model, public speaker, and creator of her YouTube channel titled "Sitting Pretty"
Your life and work are intertwined, with that in mind, what is your North Star?
"My sole purpose is to relate to my community, to show them experiences that are possible, introduce them to brands that are accessible, and simply encourage them to navigate the world from a more assured and confident space. I ultimately want the community to no longer feed into the negative stereotypes and fears that are put upon us from society and take back control of our lives, even if we can’t have full control of our bodily functions.
"My work offers opportunities to educate able-bodied families, friends, and the world, of the real experiences of people with disabilities. Our lives are much more fruitful and successful than what people assume, and interacting with us does not need to be an intimidating or fearful experience.
"It’s important for ad agencies to know there are over a billion people with disabilities in this world, yet we are very rarely marketed to or catered to for our uniqueness. Truthfully, it simply takes learning about the community for us to be represented with honesty and dignity. We are a market just waiting to be seen, in the same ways other minority groups have been. When brands and companies talk of ‘inclusion,’ they mention gender, race, sexuality, size, but hardly ever mention abilities. If society is aiming to be more inclusive for everyone, then our community needs the support of ad agencies to let the world know that people with disabilities will no longer be invisible."
James Rath, legally blind filmmaker, YouTuber, and director of How Apple Saved My Life
How has looking through a camera helped change your perspective and the work that you create?
"When you’re legally blind in a sighted world, it feels as if many would believe I lacked a certain amount of awareness. This was the case growing up, but as you grow and become more comfortable with the senses you have, you start seeing things differently.
"As an adult, I was forced to find independence through unfamiliar inputs with the world. I learned how to listen for traffic, how to determine depth with my sense of sound, how to feel different types of texture and surfaces with my sense of touch. Most importantly I realized I wasn’t set up for success by being taught how to be ‘sighted’ in school. This led me to research the concept of accessibility. Learning these skills as an adult has made the world a lot more accessible and allowed me to live independently. Through my films, I am able to bring this accessibility to a broader audience.
"When designing with accessibility in mind, and the marketing of such products and services, it’s important to serve the communities that often times are overlooked. Seeing things differently is creating an accessible experience from designing, to marketing, to shipping."
Danielle Trivisonno Hawley, CCO for Americas at POSSIBLE
How has creating accessible advertising for people with disabilities changed the way you work?
"As a creative, we’re taught to win ideas and create worlds. We inspire, we delight, we educate—but not everyone we’re trying to reach can relate.
"What would it mean if brands insisted their products and messaging were shaped by the true audience for that content? It would be a paradigm shift. I know this to be true, because it’s the foundation by which I unlearned everything I’d been taught as a creative. Or, more specifically, how I really took to heart avoiding the common pitfalls of our industry, such as creating ads for peers versus letting the audience we’re targeting drive the message. This is how we will create true impact."
Ellie Cole, Paralympic Gold Medalist and Motivational Speaker
What do you think brands must do to reach the PWD community?
"Brands that take on diversity and inclusion in an authentic way really resonate with me because it is the first step in changing the conversation around the People with Disabilities community. Our culture needs diversity in the teams creating the messages we receive in order to truly reflect everybody. It’s not only about seeing things differently, but truly seeing.
"I was forced to experience everything differently at an early age. I was three when I lost my right leg to cancer. While that has shaped the way I experience the world, it is my normal. I live my life without dwelling on it, and instead focus my energy and passion toward diversity and inclusion in sports—and everyday life."
Joe Padilla, Jr., Art Director for Wunderman Austin
Did you set out to be a creative who sees things differently?
"I solve problems with design. And, at the end of the day, I want to make dope stuff. But the main reason I enjoy this line of work is due to my constant need to communicate as clearly as possible. To be understood. As I’ve grown, both personally and in my career, I find that my need to be understood is a shared sentiment amongst many and that I am in a position to change the narrative.
"My hometown area, just 10 miles north of Mexico’s border, is often referenced when the topic of immigration hits headline news. Each story shines a spotlight on broken homes, scared children and a hopeless system. The empathy hits hard.
"I was taught that advertising and culture take turns influencing each other. If that’s the case, I’d like to weigh in by providing a voice for the underrepresented. Let me be clear: this has not been a mission of mine from day one. I come into the office at 8:30 a.m. each day with the hopes to simply design dope stuff. And I’ll continue pursuing that desire. But by no means does this have to be a solo endeavor."
Lolo, James, Danielle, Ellie, Joe, and others will Open the Aperture with Wunderman Thompson at the 2019 Cannes Festival of Advertising.
Christina Mallon is the inclusive design lead at Wunderman Thompson.