Ban Ki-moon (centre) with the Yannick Bolloré (left), Michael Roth, Sir Martin Sorrell, John Wren, Maurice Leévy and moderator, journalist Zeinab Badawi

Big six come together at Cannes Lions To support the UN’s

Ban Ki-moon

FRESH off the plane from Cuba, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon used his Cannes Lions Debate keynote to call on the communications industry’s “master storytellers” to help him promote the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted late last year.

In an inspirational address, he said: “I’m here to ask for your help. You have tremendous power to shape opinion. I want you to use your creativity, ingenuity and innovation to transform the SDGs’ complex, abstract agenda into personal, emotional coverage. But this is not a favour because everyone has a stake in what is happening in the world. The SDGs touch your reality.”


Ban Ki-moon’s call for action met a positive response from the industry’s six biggest players, Dentsu, Havas, IPG, Omnicom, Publicis and WPP, which have pledged their shared commitment to the SDGs through a new initiative called Common Ground. The CEOs of five of these groups joined the UN S-G on stage, with Dentsu CEO and president Tadashi Ishii joining the debate via a pre-recorded video message. He welcomed the initiative, saying that “the boundless creative potential” of the industry would help build a brighter future.


Yannick Bolloré, chairman and chief executive officer of Havas, said his company would focus its energy on SDGs related to climate change: “We don’t have a magic wand, but we think we can influence the conversation by making climate change feel more personal.”


IPG will tackle issues related to inadequate water provision. The company’s chairman and chief executive officer Michael Roth said: “We will use our talent to put together solutions to this problem and we will increase the pro bono work we do. And we will engage with our clients, such as Nestle, Coca-Cola and Unilever, who are already doing great work.”


John Wren, president and chief executive officer of Omnicom, will oversee his company’s initiatives around education, which he said touches many of the UN’s Goals. “Over time, education can make a difference to all of the issues affecting consumers.”


Food will be the primary focus of Publicis Groupe, said chairman and chief executive officer Maurice Lévy: “One billion people are not fed sufficiently and in rich countries 30-40% of food is wasted, so we will explore ways to diminish waste and help people to be fed.”


Sir Martin Sorrell, founder and chief executive officer of WPP, said his company will prioritise gender inequality and insisted Common Ground is a programme “that will have legs”. He also called on other communication groups to get involved behind the issue of refugees.


Collectively, the bosses said: “We want to demonstrate that even fierce competitors can set aside their differences. We hope others in and beyond our own business do the same.”



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June 24 | Special Report