Publicis Groupe and four rivals — WPP, Omnicom, Interpublic and Edelman — are calling on their “best creative minds” to take part in a $100m global, cross-industry competition to make the next phase of the Working With Cancer campaign.
The brief for the contest, called “The Big C” is being launched at Cannes Lions on Thursday (22 June) when Arthur Sadoun, the chief executive of Publicis Groupe, and representatives from the other global agencies will be on-stage.
The organisers have billed it as “Come take the brief that could impact the lives of four billion people” — a reference to how one in two people will get cancer in their lifetime globally.
Working With Cancer wants creatives to pitch ideas for the new campaign to run on World Cancer Day and the Super Bowl a week later in February 2024 — with $100m worth of donated media spend pledged to support the work. That will include some limited production resource.
Cannes Lions will use its awards platform to help Working With Cancer to run the creative competition, with entries open from 10 July to 15 September and judging by a jury of top industry creatives during October.
The five agency groups, which collectively employ over 350,000 staff, will urge their talent to pitch — with people from rival agencies potentially teaming up on a “cross-company” basis. The contest is open to all and not restricted to any companies.
“What better place than Cannes to set a brief and ask the most creative people in the world to come and help us solve this?” Carla Serrano, the chief strategy officer of Publicis Groupe, told Campaign, explaining why the organisers are launching the contest at the global advertising festival.
Chris Beresford-Hill, president of advertising for WPP-owned Ogilvy in North America, who is among the creatives helping to run the contest, added: “Our industry loves solving problems, but sometimes it feels like we’re chiselling away on an issue that’s the size of a continent. This is the kind of brief where creatives can really make an impact and change people’s lives.”
The initiative to “erase the stigma of cancer in the workplace” and raise awareness that one in two people will get cancer in their lifetime has already received backing from more than 600 companies globally, following the original campaign launch in January and Super Bowl spot in February this year.
Working With Cancer went on to win the Grand Prix for health for good Lion at Cannes on Monday.
Sadoun’s personal experience of being treated for cancer in spring 2022 inspired Publicis Groupe to launch the campaign and it has “had an overwhelming response from our peers and clients”, Serrano said.
The growing number of companies that have joined Working With Cancer has led to “a little bit of one upmanship” in a positive way, as they seek to improve their support for employees and close family members with cancer, and the creative contest will look to tap into that energy to inspire the creative, she explained.
Beresford-Hill said: “I would encourage our people — ‘Work with a friend of yours at Publicis, work with a friend of yours at Omnicom.’ I couldn’t actually care less about what network wins the competition.
“This is about winning the battle of cancer, not anything to do with our pay stubs [in terms of where someone works and who pays them].”
In terms of the creative itself, he said: “I don’t think we’re looking for the world’s most traditional platform campaign. We’re looking for the most effective work possible.”
Serrano added they were not necessarily looking for a single, winning idea: “The jurors might find that there’s two amazing ideas that are complementary and there might end up being two winners.”
The team of jurors will include Susan Credle, global chair and global chief creative officer of FCB, Chaka Sobhani, global CCO of Leo Burnett, Luiz Sanches, CCO of BBDO North America, Judy John, global COO of Edelman, and Debbi Vandeven, global CCO of VMLY&R.
Many global brands including Citi, EE, L’Oréal, Lloyds Banking Group, LVMH, McDonald’s, Pepsico, Unilever and Walmart have pledged their support for Working With Cancer.
Media companies ranging from Google and Meta to Disney and Haymarket Media Group have also signed up and donated media space for the campaign.