Cannes In Color: Race And Equality In Advertising At Cannes Lions Festival
The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is taking place this week, and the prestigious event attracts nearly 80,000 advertising, technology and consumer brand executives annually from around the world.
Launched in its reincarnated present form in 1984, the festival has been a landmark event honoring excellence and curating topical discussion for those at this important intersection. Panels, events and collectives around diversity and inclusion have finally been added to the festival.
I approached the festival several years ago regarding the inclusion of such discussions based on a series of trends and events I tracked in the United States. The importance was not understood by the organizers until very recently. Now the trend is embraced.
A particularly fresh approach was offered earlier this week at Cannes via streaming music giant Spotify and I.D.E.A. initiative, a coalition of business executives dedicated to advancing inclusion, diversity, equality and awareness in tech, entertainment, advertising, media and marketing. A lively and meaningful panel discussion attracted nearly 200 festival-goers deeply interested in the topic at the Spotify festival headquarters on the Boulevard de la Croisette beachfront. The event yielded one of the most contemporary and engaging presentations produced to date.
Entitled, “Cannes in Color,” the panel discussion inlcuded panelists Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at P&G; Seth Farbman, CMO at Spotify; Teneshia J. Warner of Egami Consulting Group; and Kendra Bracken-Ferguson of CAA-GBG. I was the panel moderator. Danielle Lee, global VP and partner for solutions at Spotify, provided opening remarks.
Breakthrough campaigns such as “I’m With The Banned” and “My Black is Beautiful” were reviewed by those who actually created them, along with frank discussion and rare insights.
“I’m With the Banned” is an original series launched by Spotify that included a documentary and new music and video content from six American musicians paired with artists from each of the six Muslim-majority countries targeted by the President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
P&G took on racial bias, showcasing the talk Black parents have with their children about the realities of being Black in the U.S. “My Black is Beautiful” started in 2006 as a group “to spark a broader dialogue about Black beauty.” The P&G initiative was designed to celebrate cultural identity and start a conversation about racial bias.
Key points included navigating the sensitive and delicate issue of campaigns that focus squarely on race and inclusion, dealing with harsh consumer feedback as well as that which deeply embraces such work and future goals.
Bracken-Ferguson (CAA-GBG) spoke about consulting clients on word choice, semantics and taking well-paced organic approaches to the demographic of color.
Warner (Egami) addressed the great need for precision and testing applied to the creative approach to beauty via her company’s work with P&G. Many times, actual logistics can pose unforeseen hurdles, Farbman (Spotify) added.
A particularly refreshing perspective was included from Pritchard (P&G), who spoke candidly about dealing with harsh consumer feedback, the company’s media strategy to address it, and intense C-suite conversations to drive commitment and goals.
“Now is the time for all of us to act,” Pritchard said. “This issue is of extreme importance and brands cannot afford to avoid issues anymore simply because they are unfamiliar or uncomfortable.”
Technology and influencers are used to help gauge elements and approach to campaigns dealing with race, as well as greater diversity of staff, agencies, consultants and suppliers.
As the industry continues to tackle many issues, race in America — particularly with today’s political climate — will be the most sensitive and challenging of our time.