The Cannes Lions 2018 International Festival Of Creativity recently wrapped in Cannes, France, and while many of the major companies’ beach installations have been broken down, the reverberations around diversity and the festival will, no doubt, build through the remainder of the year and beyond.
Here are some of the highlights, ICYMI.
Though slow to adopt, the extremely well-produced festival is now a full supporter of all things diversity. The five-day long Cannes Lions Festival attracts executives working in advertising, marketing, technology, media and entertainment from around the world.
Certain companies took the opportunity to make a measurable impact during the festival. HP sent several ethnically and racially diverse employees with five-to-10 years of industry experience to the festival to help diversify festival delegates. This year’s group included people of African-American, Brazilian, Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese, Malaysian, Indian, Columbian and Vietnamese descent.
Activities included mentoring sessions and a luncheon with HP marketing leadership. The intent was to bring young diverse talent to Cannes to actually experience it and powerfully network.
Diversity’s power to drive business results for brands was the topic of a panel. Speakers included the newly crowned British Vogue editor Edward Enninful, “Westworld” actress Thandie Newton, Omnicom chief diversity office and Adcolor founder and President Tiffany R. Warren, as well as HP marketing chief Antonio Lucio.
A session on the beach entitled “Wake Up with The Economist” included marketing executives from Mercedes Benz, Unilever and T-Mobile debating platforms, accountability and diversity.
The session featured Natanael Sijanta, director of global marketing communications at Mercedes; Aline Santos, EVP for global marketing and head of diversity and inclusion at Unilever, and Nick Drake, EVP of marketing and experience at T-Mobile. It was moderated by Andrew Palmer, business affairs editor at The Economist.
Participants analyzed the question: Do marketers have a responsibility to diversity, social responsibility and more within an era of tension and disruption?
Perhaps most poignant point was when Palmer challenged the diversity agenda, saying he wasn’t sure if what he had seen and heard at Cannes over the last week was more “like a compliance exercise”.
There is still a woeful lack of diversity in journalists admitted and attending the Cannes Lions festival, and among general attendees.
Santos agreed there was a lot of talk rather than action, but she believed it was paving the way for more results in the future. She said companies need to be held accountable for comments they make in public around the issue of diversity. “Even if you are not doing much, you are obliged to reflect and obliged to start thinking about a plan because people are going to charge you on that.”
Unilever feels responsible for the way the company portrays people in its advertising, and is carving out a unique space in the diversity narrative.
In partnership with U.N. Women, Unilever launched the Unstereotype Alliance at Cannes last year, bringing together companies from all sectors, including competitors.
“Every time you use the power of advertising that is against stereotypes, that is really progressive. We are getting better results,” explained Santos. “We have 25 percent more branded impact, 18 percent more purchase intention. It’s good for business, brands and society.”
Santos and her team are working in tandem with Turner Broadcasting and Simon Fuller to directly create content that drives a new look at diversity. They’ll be unveiling new programming soon.
However, it seems Cannes in Color was the only festival panel squarely about race (race: which is in fact the foundation brave civil rights leaders in America give us all to have the larger conversation about inclusion, anyway). Produced by Spotify and Idea Initiative, the Cannes in Color panel presented a rare behind-the-scenes look at sensitive advertising work around race today.
As preparations begin for Cannes Lions 2019 already, diversity will, no doubt, continue to expand as a major narrative among creative professionals worldwide.
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