22 Jun 2018

Why Virtue Signalling Needs to be Cannes-ed

Don’t Panic headed to Cannes this week to throw a huge blowout party and bop to Idris Elba! That’s blowout, not blow we swear… We also had a few meetings but hey no one’s interested in that. Aside from the usual parties and schmoozing it seemed like the subtheme for this year’s festival was “Band Social Value” the digital age of transparency has resulted in marketers and agency leaders jumping on the brand purpose bandwagon. Nowadays every brand wants to show what they can give back, what causes they can help with and basically how good they are. Of course, we’re all for that at Don’t Panic and any brand that follows through on their promises and genuinely makes a difference, but we started to notice a trend other than underboob cleavage in the South of France. Brands from across the creative industries we there representing themselves, their values and basically Veuve Clicquot. Conde Nast had slogans like ‘Every woman will have a fuck off fund’ embossed on their promotional areas. The sentiment is great yes, who needs a fuck off fund more than women? We’re pretty sure that’s what Melania Trump has been saving up for all these years. But when it’s being organised by a company like Conde Nast it rings hollow.

Earlier this year it was revealed that the British wing of Condé Nast has among the worst gender pay gaps of any of the big media companies, paying men on average 37 percent more than it paid women employees when using the “mean” average hourly pay. The figures came from a British government edict that required all companies with more than 250 employees to report the mean, median and bonus average gender pay gap by April 5. Conde Nast tried to clear things up by explaining that they actually employ more women than men but its just that the people in the “upper quartile” earn the most and the people at the top are men!

It seems like the Conde maybe saving some more money on top of what they’re not paying women by getting the bandwagon home instead of BA. Of course, Conde Nast is not guilty of always augmenting their virtuousness, Edward Enninful was recently promoted to the role of Editor-in-Chief at British Vogue, a seminal position for a person of colour in the publishing world that will hopefully encourage real change. But this kind of virtue signalling is not only deleterious to the cause but is also corrosive to workplace morale. The message of #PayMeToo is completely undermined by the publishers own continued practice, which in turn undermines the whole movement because it suggests that it is merely a trend and holds no power at all. The world of fashion and publishing is mainly made up of women yet they barely make an impression on the top roles, so as a woman working at Conde Nast you would not only have to deal with that uncomfortable truth but also have to come up with lame copy for the company bar at Cannes that tries to cover it up! And on top of that, you probably won’t even get to go to Cannes because only the top people get to go and they’re all men too! Remember!

It’s not really surprising to see this kind of stuff at the festival though, the trophy of Cannes is in itself the embodiment of male privilege; a lion. A literal fat-cat who sits on his arse whilst his female counterpart does all the work to receive less than half of the attention. So it’s not just the brands that need to sort it out, Cannes needs to start celebrating women more too. It’s time the biggest companies within the creative sector closed the gender pay gap by paying the gender back! But not with cheap slogans and empty promises, with cold hard stacks, like CNN UK who pays women 2.8 percent on average more than men. That way they can action real change and encourage others to follow suit, from the top down. Then maybe the women they employ won’t need a fuckoff fund.