The Youth Lab


A couple of weeks ago 52INSIGHTS spoke about “Cancelled Culture.” A “cancelling” sentiment came to light again this week, during the aftermath of the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.


While there were some fantastic campaigns at Cannes (our favourite being Twój Weekend’s “The Last Ever Issue”), there didn’t seem to be anything drastically new or different. Hot-topic themes included brand purpose, technology, AI, gender equality, and storytelling. They were discussed and debated in-between parties. But, the standout event of the week was the presence of Extinction Rebellion (a socio-political movement which uses nonviolent resistance to protest against climate breakdown, biodiversity loss, and the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse). On the back of their powerfully worded letter to the ad industry they arrived in protest with the hope of rallying the industry into action. Some members were arrested.

Their voices served to reveal some of the great ‘hypocrisies’ around brand purpose - now a trend that’s been around for many years. As Unilever’s Chief Executive put it “Woke-washing is beginning to infect our industry. It’s putting in peril the very thing which offers us the opportunity to help tackle many of the world’s issues. Purpose-led brand communications is not just a matter of ‘make them cry, make them buy’. It’s about action in the world.” Extinction Rebellion's hopeful presence points to greater and more disruptive change, just around the corner.


A recent study asked 13-22 year olds to develop a slogan for Gen Z. They overwhelmingly suggested some variation of “be yourself,” But after this, significantly, the second most popular kinds of slogans were aimed at social responsibility such as “save our planet” and “we want change.”

If I live to be 100, I will be alive in the year 2103. When you think about the future today, you don't think beyond the year 2050. By then, I will in the best case, not even have lived half of my life. What happens next? The year 2078 I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children or grandchildren, maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you, the people who were around back in 2018. Maybe they will ask why you didn't do anything while there was still time to act? What we do or don't do right now will affect my entire life and the lives of my children and grandchildren. What we do or don't do right now, me and my generation can't undo in the future.” Greta Thunberg, 16

Youth all around the world are rising up, and with them too, are the young people working in marketing and advertising:

“If we really think sustainably, then why do industry representatives need to fly to Cannes? Especially when digital ways of communicating have developed so rapidly? It is scary how hard it seems to be - especially for older generations - to unlearn modern consumption habits. My father is one of the leading environmental researchers in Finland. I’ve witnessed first-hand how frustrating it is when the alarming story that our planet is telling us through research data, isn’t really heard among our decision makers. It is sad that it takes a 16-year-old girl quitting her studies temporarily, to make the world listen for a moment. The lesson I took from Cannes, is simply that some businesses don’t have the right to exist anymore.” Miikka, 29 (Young Cannes Lions participant)

“Because the environmental crisis is a challenge that nobody on this planet has faced before, creative people like those in our industry, are uniquely placed to find solutions. Yes, we’re a part of the problem. But we’re also extremely comfortable in spaces where new ideas and concepts are being explored. It’s the most difficult brief we could be given, but it's forcing us to bring forth all of what we have to give. And, despite the horrendous reality of the situation, that’s actually pretty exciting.” Laura, 28

“Rapid, far reaching and unprecedented change,” (As the IPCC put it in their report earlier this year), is starting to simmer in corners of the world. Youth are (rightly) demanding it, and it is our responsibility as youth marketeers, to take note and take action.


This should be scary.

Act now. Make a start. Even a small start. Educate yourself on the challenge. Talk about it. Ask questions. As a member of Extinction Rebellion said at Cannes, “If there’s no planet, there’s no profit.” In the name of youth, and life on earth as we know it, our job now is to turn away from distractions and focus our energies on how our collective creativity can save the world.

If you want to talk about how we can take action together, let’s do it.

See also

A Rebellion Risen: Shooting for the Moon at COP24
A Rebellion Risen: Shooting for the Moon at COP24

“This is the moonshot, the civil rights movement of our generation.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on our next steps toward fighting climate change.

Youth's Roar for Climate Accountability
Youth's Roar for Climate Accountability

California is burning. Ireland is in drought. People in Spain and Portugal are advised to stay indoors as the heat tops 45C. The Japanese heatwave...