CANNES, France—The mid-week midday shuffle was interrupted on Wednesday when a handful of protesters gathered around the hub of sanctioned events at the Palais during the Cannes Lions festival and demanded that the advertising industry recognize the looming consequences of climate change.
The advocacy group, which calls itself the Extinction Rebellion and originated in the U.K., claimed that police arrested at least a dozen of its members. Festival attendees stopped in their tracks to record the unfolding situation and watched as authorities carried at least two protesters down the carpeted red steps.
The group highlighted ecologically unfriendly traditional Cannes practices, such as the row of yachts that mostly sit idle during the day but occasionally take guests out of the dock to drive around.
“No one gets away from this. There is no yacht you can hide on,” said Extinction Rebellion activist William Skeaping. “If we’re going to talk about diversity, we need to look at the big structural things we’re doing before we start working out what happens on a panel and what happens internally. There’s a much bigger responsibility here that we all have a part to play in the West, and the advertising industry needs to start deciding whether it’s on the right side of history or the wrong side of history.”
Members of the group continued to shout in French and handed out stickers to passersby as their comrades drove by in the back of police cars. Those still protesting held up their arms and cheered in support.
The group recently released a book called This is Not a Drill, a handbook on addressing climate change.
Skeaping said the group wasn’t targeting or singling out the advertising industry for its role in climate change. Rather, it intends to draw attention to the issue among all big industries. He said the group wants to the ad industry to listen and acknowledge the climate crisis “in a big way.”
“This needs to be the last Cannes where this is not the No. 1 subject,” Skeaping said. “If we don’t do something, there will be no advertising industry on a dead planet.”