Cannes 2024:“DEI Will Never Die”

(MENAFN- PRovoke) CANNES - As the creative and communications industry's focus on diversity, equity and inclusion appears in some quarters to be waning, leaders from FleishmanHillard and IPG reiterated the importance of continuing to prioritise DEI at the Cannes Lions festival.

FleishmanHillard SVP, senior partner and chief diversity officer Adrianne Smith – who in 2019 created the Inkwell Beach, the first dedicated DEI platform at Cannes – gave a rousing keynote at the Palais des Festivals, in which she said:“They are saying DEI is dead, but instead I'm going to say it is alive and will live on for decades to come. I'm very intentional about this role and how seriously leaders need to take this.”

Smith said DEI initiatives in creative businesses not only helped to rectify historical injustice, they also created economic opportunities, especially for marginalised communities:“Without diversity, we can't achieve economic growth or strength; it fosters innovation, creativity and better business outcomes. It's not about handouts, it's about creating a level playing field for everyone to have a level shot at success... DEI isn't black or white, it's green – it's all about the money. It's good for business.”

And referring to the current DEI backlash in the US, she added:“With the US reversal of affirmative action, leaders of organisations are feeling threatened. There is a question of how to continue to do this work without being blackballed, shamed or cancelled. We're remaining ten toes down, committed to the work.”

Given the concerns of some leaders, Smith said the industry needed to“fight for the right for our DEI leaders to stay in position and show the value of their role. DEI is important and valuable. It's not about race, gender, or social economics – it's about all of us.

“We all benefit from the lowered curbs on the sidewalk that were created for people in wheelchairs. What they want you to believe is that the lowered curb is no longer valuable and there is a need to raise the curb – they are trying to take your access away and penalise a community, but it's about creating opportunity for everyone to rise together, not taking away from other groups.”

So what can agencies do to continue to advance on DEI, rather than rolling back? Smith urged agencies to“hold the course” and work together:“Have common conversations, pull together groups and organisations to make sure we develop policies together so every agency is creating best practice on DEI – we may be competitive agencies but this work is imperative. Don't do this in a silo. Don't compete, repeat.”

The need to continue a focus on DEI in the creative industry was also covered at the annual IPG Inclusion Breakfast at the Meta beach in Cannes, where the holding company's global chief diversity and social impact officer Channing Martin said:“There is a global conversation around anti-DEI efforts or anti-'wokeness' – we're here to reaffirm our commitment to this space.

“We were the first holding company to have a chief diversity officer, and we continue to be intentional, strategic, collaborative, to use data to change norms and behaviour, and to use creativity, technology and art to centre audiences.”

In conversation with Bayyina Black, global director of sustainability and impact at IPG ad agency R/GA, Martin also revealed the imminent launch of the group's new DEI initiative, Rise, which represents a refresh of its DEI strategy and covers culture, people, business and social impact.

Black said:“We took Channing and her department as a client and looked at how we make DEI sexy again. It's a truly global project, as it was important to get different perspectives from all over the world. There is so much conversation about DEI being dead and we know that's not true. We wanted to also show the beauty in diversity and created a beautiful brand.”

Martin also spoke to brand leaders and creative directors about how to go beyond allyship and“walk the talk” when seeking to engage the Black community.

Coca Cola's senior creative director for non-Coke brands including Sprite and Fanta, AP Chaney, said:“Sprite was the first brand to feature rap artists in a national TV commercial in 1986, laying the groundwork for Black culture in advertising, and we have not taken our foot off the gas, as one of the only big brands that consistently prioritises Black people – we celebrate them as much as they celebrate us.”

At IPG brand experience agency Momentum Worldwide, executive creative director Patrick Bennett said brands get engagement wrong when their efforts to connect with Black consumers appeared inauthentic:“Authenticity is not a single act. An authentic voice and authentic relationship is developed over time with brands that have been consistently listening as well as acting, not just talking to a community but living that community.”

On how he would like to see brands' engagement with the Black community evolve, Bennett said:“The Black community is not a monolith. I want brands to see us, to recognise us – we may look similar but we are so different, and when brands are trying to understand us, I want them to go the extra mile, listen more, don't be so broad-brush. Go the next step and really understand the diversity that exists within the Black community.”

IPG chief executive Philippe Krakowsky concluded the conversation by saying:“What it takes to address systemic injustice and bias is consistency, and the willingness to keep at it and be really intentional about how we do this. Elections in France and Germany last week remind us that there is a lot of work to be done, as there are belief systems that aren't going away.”

On the degree to which so many corporations are walking away from DEI work, Krakowsky said:“You know what privilege is: if you can put this down and walk away from it, you are someone for whom it is not your reality every day. We need to bring it front and centre so everyone has tools to work with and ways to bridge the gap in terms of how we communicate about this issue, and what we need to do for clients to help them break through and find connection in a world that is complicated and polarised.”



Legal Disclaimer:
MENAFN provides the information “as is” without warranty of any kind. We do not accept any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, content, images, videos, licenses, completeness, legality, or reliability of the information contained in this article. If you have any complaints or copyright issues related to this article, kindly contact the provider above.