He is more commonly associated with Le Croisette, the iconic Cannes seafront promenade that is peppered with luxury stores, and can often be found on the palatial yachts that flank the Palais every June.

But, this Saturday, Cannes Lions chairman Phillip Thomas will be roughing it – sleeping out on the cold concrete of New York, like thousands of truly homeless people.

Thomas will be joined by ad industry peers like those from WPP and MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan for World’s Big Sleep Out, a fundraiser that will see businesspeople around the world curl up on sidewalks to raise money and attention for the growing global homelessness problem.

He has already raised more than $4,000 through his JustGiving page, which has made Thomas the number-two individual giver to the cause. Beet.TV readers can help Thomas raise even more money by donating there now.

Money raised by those participating in the US will go to UNICEF USA. Thomas and his peers will join those sleeping at Times Square.

“It was started by a guy in Scotland who decided to do something about homelessness and encouraged people to sleep out for just one night to raise money for homelessness,” Thomas told Beet.TV in this interview recorded at the Beet.TV OpenAP holiday party on Monday night at the iconic Manhattan media watering hole Michael’s.

“He did it for a few years in Scotland and this year he’s doing it in 50 different cities all over the world, including London and here in New York.”

According to a 2005 UN report, 100 million people around the world were homeless. According to the Coalition For The Homeless, 62,391 people in New York were homeless in September 2019, driven primarily by the lack of affordable housing, with the numbers reaching the highest level since the Great Depression o the 1930s.

Focus on sustainability

The sleep-out isn’t the only positive initiative Thomas will engage in over the next year. Also president of events at London-based Ascential, after the media group, formerly known as Emap, he says the forthcoming 2020 Cannes Lions festival will devote a whole day to debating the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“We want to focus that attention by having lots of content about the SDGs, have the United Nations speak at the SDG Lions on that Wednesday and we’re partnering with Global Citizen as well to have a big event at the end of the day as well,” he says.

“There are many different conversations throughout the week about things like the SDGs and what our industry can do to help the world. But also there needs to be a lot of other conversations, you know, commercial conversations.

“So we want to try and focus those conversations on one day to get the maximum bang for our buck for it, allowing people to have bigger conversations around other things for the rest of the week.”

Themes fit for a Lion

Thomas’ Lions has revealed the eight themes on which next June’s festival will focus:

  1. “Creativity is the business growth engine.”
  2. “Creative disruption in commerce”.
  3. “Post-purpose: brand accountability and activism.”
  4. “Your brand is my experience.”
  5. “Looking to 2030: Making your business future-fit.”
  6. “Applied creativity: When data, tech and ideas collide.”
  7. “Storytelling at scale.”
  8. “Let’s go back to brand.”