What was new at Cannes this year?

Let’s put aside the Publicis and WPP element -others have said plenty already. Two things stuck out for me: First, there were more Americans there than usual. And that is a good thing. Second, there was much more of a focus on women. And that is a great thing

To the American point first. In organising the programme for the ICCO House of PR, it was notable that conversations which would previously have taken place with European offices were now taking place with American ones instead. The decision-making process on Cannes involvement has moved across the Atlantic. Bluntly, this is a pain at times, as it lengthens discussion periods. But there is a significant upside -it means that our once-wary American cousins are increasingly ‘getting’ Cannes. And that’s good for us all.

The second point is even more significant. 2017 was the year that Cannes was dominated by women. And I mean that in a very good way.

Omnicom’s Karen van Bergen chaired the Lions’ Jury, and did so with her usual rigour and style. And Fearless Girl won.

Both of those are excellent things. What were even better however were the conversations about the industry’s future. To give just one example, I moderated the first ever Global Women in PR Cannes event. It was around flexibility working, and as well as GWPR’s Sue Hardwick, the panel included Rachel Holbrook, Global Head of Production for Airbnb; Karen Kahn, Chief Communications Officer, HP; and Charlotte Witte, Senior Partner, Prime. Three very powerful women at the pinnacle of their organisations, and delivering strongly held views with rigour and passion.

We spoke about the need for businesses not just to talk about flexible working, but also to embrace it truly. And to make it available to all -yes, of course to mothers. But to everyone, reflecting the fact that each life has its own rhythm.

We talked about how HP is going to use both the carrot and the stick to change the shape and face of their agencies -insisting that agencies increase their number of senior women employees for example.

We spoke about the unintended biases that still bedevil many companies, even when they have no idea such biases exist. And of the need for us to face up to those problems and realise how they hold back our businesses and our industry.

And nobody in the Edelman room (ok, the Edelman garden) disagreed.

I left Cannes a more confident man than I arrived there. Because for the first time, it seemed like there was a real appetite not just to talk about the deeper issues that confront our industry, but to take action. If talent is the number one issue facing our industry — and Holmes Report and ICCO data tell us it is — then we need to be bolder than we have been so far. And Cannes 2017 convinced me that such boldness is now with us.

Francis Ingham is PRCA director-general and ICCO chief executive.