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Andrew Shebbeare interviewed by Modern Advertising on Cannes

The below content and article originally appeared on Modern Advertising's website on July 20, 2019.

Cannes Speaker Recount | Essence Co-Founder and Chairman Andrew Shebbeare: What is ethical advertising in the intelligent era?

It is my first time speaking in the Palais, and it was a privilege to share the stage with Ljupco Jivan Gjorgjinski, who leads the United Nations working group on autonomous weapons. The overlap between our areas of expertise may not sound obvious, but we’ve been fascinated to uncover the number of parallels as artificial intelligence (AI) becomes increasingly important in advertising and in warfare. Our discussion touched on the ethical dilemmas, the potential unintended consequences and the important opportunities for social benefit that AI presents. Most of all, we share a passionate belief in the need for more discussion and a shared responsibility to reap the benefits of AI in a manner that benefits everyone.

I was heartened to see a lot more discussion of our industry’s social and environmental responsibility. It was the norm, rather than the exception, to see publishers, agencies, and brands take a stand on issues like diversity, sustainability, equality and more. 

We’re seeing more and more work that goes beyond the traditional reaches of advertising - unique opportunities that are made rather than bought, and help brands demonstrate their values rather than preach them.

Underlying that trend is an even greater expectation that brands must live and breathe their values; authenticity is more important than ever. I was impressed to hear L’Oreal’s Stephan Garandet describe the way their influencer marketing has “grown-up” to become focused on values more than on reach, even if that means the occasional negative review. That approach demands patience and courage but I think is absolutely the right direction for our industry.

(in response to the question: Is your main aim learning, experience, meeting people or doing business there?)

A little of each! Cannes is an opportunity to discuss important topics that don’t always get covered in among the cut and thrust of delivering everyday work. I find discussions with our partners particularly helpful, and Cannes tends to attract senior people who can catalyze change and come with open minds. It’s also great to spend time socially with a group of people I’ve come to know as friends as well as colleagues. I try to set aside time to attend presentations but often find that time gets swallowed up very quickly with impromptu meetings (a huge learning opportunity in their own right!).