Cannes Day Five: Diversity

Another year of the International Festival of Creativity is over. Cannes Lions 2018 is officially done!  And what a week it’s been!  Five full days of discussing technology, creativity and the potential of the human condition, plus quite a bit about advertising and brands.   All up, it’s been an amazing week which I feel very fortunate to have been a part of.

Today is a day of reflection, pondering the content of the talks I’ve seen, and the discussions I’ve had with so many of my peers – the one great thing about this event is that you get to meet so many new friends, catch up with old friends and discuss what you’ve experienced. The one topic which generated the most discussion?  Unsurprisingly, Diversity.

Here at Cannes this year, the discussion of Diversity was ever present. Seen on-ground daily was The Female Quotients activation, a daily build encompassing important quotes on the topic from the weeks leaders. They also held daily panel discussions at The Girls Lounge, with a clear push on upping the representation of women in senior leadership across the industry.

Gretchen Carlson, former Miss America contestant and now Chairwoman of the organisation, took to the stage to discuss her role in the #MeToo movement, and her plans to redefine the Miss America competition in this new age of feminism.   Beyond discussing the issue of beauty and pageantry, Carlson encouraged women to look closely at their employment contracts, stating that a major barrier to overcoming workplace harassment culture could be found in arbitration clauses.  In her opinion, the key to real culture change is open discussion, something which arbitration clauses prevent.

Pushing the female agenda took up the lion share of diversity-based discussion, with quotes such as “If you’re stale, pale and male – be a f*@king woman!”, and discussion about The Pink Tax – how basic goods and services are priced more expensively for women.

Work, such as Bodyform’s Blood Normal, was identified as important work helping change the culture of shame around female basic biology, showing the potential influence of advertising across societal attitudes.

Diversity however consists of more than just a female agenda, and there was significant discussion about the state of multicultural representation across advertising, with Marc Pritchard of P&G noting “In the US, if you’re not doing multicultural marketing, you’re not doing marketing”.   AT&T, the US telecommunications company has set up Hello Lab, a marketing initiative which seeks to promote diversity through film by matching Hollywood mentors to up and coming film-makers from diverse backgrounds.

Google celebrated Friday by making over Google Beach, their on-ground activation space, to celebrate Pride Day, a place to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. Panel discussions on the moral obligation of advertisers to promote tolerance and acceptance of all people, regardless of gender, background or orientation and the role advertising can play in changing attitudes, were key topics.  Coca-Cola, Guiness, Ikea and Unilever were held up as examples of advertisers who were fearlessly pursuing this agenda through their communications using normalisation techniques.

Whilst undoubtedly there is a long way to go before we solve all these issues, it was clear to see that many brands have jumped on board the diversity train. Ensuring alignment with brand values and a commitment to diversity beyond stunts and one-day celebrations is the only way to authenticity which consumers will back in loyalty and sales.

So what have I learnt from a week in Cannes? That you get out what you put in.  If you just turn up to party on the yachts and drink rosé in the sunshine, all you’ll take home is a hangover.   But if you dedicate your days to listening to the experts discuss topics you know little about and talking to new people you meet, you’ll come away inspired and more creatively minded……and you can always find time for a rosé once the day is done.

Until next year…..Over and Out.



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