Times of great change call for great changemakers – by Euronews’ Carolyn Gibson

By Carolyn Gibson, chief revenue officer, Euronews

In the world of media, change is inevitable. It’s the reason we need to keep tabs on the latest trends, audience sentiment, and the latest technology and platforms to help us convey our message.

But change isn’t just something that happens to us, in media or indeed any other industry. Changing the way in which we operate as organisations should involve conscious decisions, and driving that change demands concerted effort, whether that comes from the individual or the collective. 

With the pandemic, change was driven in no small measure by external forces that were beyond our control. Now, as we emerge from the other side, there is a heightened need to address many of the issues that have been emerging over the last decade or more, which the pandemic brought into sharp focus. Inequality. Sustainability. Diversity. Inclusion. And with these issues moving front and centre for the general public, they also naturally come to the fore for the media and marketing industry. 

That was certainly the impression I was left with after taking part in the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, where Euronews collaborated with the Cannes Lions team to deliver the “Changemakers” series, a line-up of events with innovative female leaders from some of the world’s biggest brands and agency groups to deliver insights, ideas and trend forecasts. These one-on-one interviews – available on Euronews Next, our digital platform dedicated to business and new technology – focused on leaders who are rethinking their roles and reshaping their organisations to create a better future for the industry – driving necessary change for the companies they work for either directly or as agency partners. 

This year’s festival was an opportunity to see how some of the world’s biggest companies are adapting to this fast-changing environment. It was easy to see a pattern emerging. Many companies are now keen to prove how responsible they are, particularly in terms of sustainability and equality, making female and minority voices heard. It was clear that the pandemic has changed the mindset of consumers, making us more mindful of our health and quality of life. In short, we want the highest standards and respect for the world around us, and we expect this from those who supply us.

In sustainability terms, companies are keen to display and promote their actions, as Vicky Free, head of global marketing at Adidas, and Jane Wakely, chief consumer and marketing officer at PepsiCo, made clear. Speaking on consumer expectations, Free said: “They want to see action. They want to really see, what are you doing? How are you driving it? They want a longer-lasting product and they want it to be better for the planet.”

Adidas itself is sourcing more environmentally-friendly materials, reducing its use of plastics, and making efforts to lower its carbon footprint. Likewise, Pepsico has pledged to have 100 per cent recyclable, reusable, compostable and biodegradable packaging by 2025, and net-zero emissions by 2040. Wakely described this approach as “story-doing, not storytelling.” 

Chaka Sobhani, chief creative officer at Leo Burnett, spoke to us about the push for more diversity, equality and inclusion within organisations, and shared her experience of how bringing together voices from different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds helps to better connect with audiences. She also added that this approach, and pushing for equality, must be a team effort. “It’s a collective thing – this is not about women doing it on their own,” she said.

So, companies are aiming to take more responsibility, in line with the expectations of consumers, and there’s a huge technological shift occurring at the same time – something that could be an opportunity to help sell more products, but also be used as an enabler to show these changes and practices in action.

That technology shift is likely to come in the form of the metaverse, a 3D interactive, immersive internet experience, currently being developed by the likes of Google, Apple, Meta (formerly Facebook), and others. 

Angie Gifford, Meta’s vice president EMEA, spoke to us at Cannes about the potential that the metaverse would unleash, from engaging with a 3D virtual model of the latest BMW to a gamified experience to showcase the latest beauty products. “Rather than watching the internet, you will be on it,” she said. “This is the next immersive version of the internet, and how we are going to be together. It’s the next big thing.”

Changes are being made. And few would disagree that these particular changes are a step in the right direction. Who wouldn’t want companies to take responsibility for their actions, and show the confidence to stand by and promote that, within the metaverse or any other forum for communication? And with more voices being heard in the creative process, including those of these inspiring women, maybe these changes are here to stay.

The Changemakers series was developed in partnership with Euronews Next and Cannes Lions.