When Anti-Tobacco Organizations learned that we would be coming back to the International Festival of Creativity in Cannes, they started attacking us “in the most vicious and unprofessional way,” says the Senior VP of Global Communication, Marian Salzman.
They told people to avoid us.
Yet, during the three-day festival on the French Riviera, hundreds of delegates, thinkers, disruptors, media and marketing executives poured in to the “Open Mic” pavilion, sponsored by Philip Morris International, to helps us transform the world into a better place.
“Controversial brands are the most interesting to speak to because they tap into the largest problems. If we open the floor up to conversations, we can change things, together,” said Monique Nelson, CEO of UniWorld Group, the longest-standing multicultural ad agency in the United States.
In the words of Bonin Bough, founder of Bonin Ventures, what PMI is doing “is the biggest thing to affect public change and people’s lives”.
For the second year in a row, the “Open Mic” pavilion welcomed meaningful and civilised debates on big ideas on the French Riviera. “Make no mistake, people ask very tough questions here, to which we have good answers most of the time. Sometimes our answers are a work-in-progress, but the important thing is that we’re talking, we’re debating, we’re sharing ideas,” said Salzman.
Bonin Bough agreed. “You can’t just say ‘don’t’, it clearly hasn’t worked,” he says. “If we don’t allow alternatives to be shared with consumers who need them the most, we’re doing the largest disservice to their lives and well-being.”
Some conversations are far too important not to be a part of. And as Tanya LeSieur, Associate Partner of M/H VCCP, put it, “We’d be more powerful if we operated in collectives, all together, people who agree and who disagree. We can tackle big issues at the same time without being scared,” she said from our terrace.
Over the course of the past decade we have put—and continue to put—most of our efforts, time, and resources towards providing less-harmful alternatives to cigarettes for adult men and women who would otherwise continue smoking. We are helping change the lives of millions of adult smokers worldwide.
And, although some organizations don’t want us to talk about better solutions for smokers, the public support us.
“It’s difficult to have a conversation. But there’s no reason to shy away from it,” said artist and activist Rose McGowan from the “Open Mic” stage. “We have to embrace what’s difficult and lean into it.”
Rose McGowan and Bonin Bough were paid to attend Cannes Lions by PMI. The views expressed by them are their own.
From the Open Mic pavilion on the French Riviera, panelists from the ad industry reflect on what it takes to cut through the haze
On the last day of the Cannes Lions Festival 2019, the Open Mic roundtable at the PMI pavillion centered on how to foster and build successful communities.
Day two at PMI's Open Mic pavillion at the Cannes Lions focused on inclusion and diversity, with actress and activist Rose McGowan inviting PMI to become a leader of thought revolution.
After three days of one-to-ones, roundtables, and events at the “Open Mic” pavilion, these are our takeaways from this year’s Festival of Creativity.
We don’t usually comment on PR campaigns by anti-tobacco organizations: We’re trying to stop people smoking, while they’re trying to stop us.