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Cannes Lions 2019: C-Suite Courageous Conversations – Inkwell Insights and What We’re Really Here For: Why Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Matters

Words by Jamie Tolentino-Deludet

Adrianne Smith, Founder of Vision Corps Media Group (VCMG), created the Cannes Can: Diversity Collective in 2017 to help under-represented communities gain knowledge, exposure, and networking opportunities at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Philip Thomas, Chairman and CEO of Cannes Lions says that an analysis by IBM Watson reveals that diversity is the number one keyword in Cannes, and that diversity is important element in their work. This year, to represent how important this agenda is, they have decided to go all out with a beach activation with talks on all things diversity and inclusion.


Gayle King, CBS Morning News Anchor, talks to a panel regarding their views on diversity to kick off the week of discussions at the Inkwell Beach at during the festival.

Mark Read, CEO of WPP claims that “If we want to have the best people, we need to have a diverse and inclusive workforce. If we can get the best people in our business, then everything else will follow”.  He also champions the fact that as a leader, he takes responsibility to lead by example and from the top.
Jacqui Canney is two weeks into the job as Global Chief People Officer of WPP. Aside from in-person conversations and focus groups, the 135,000 strong staff is going to be canvassed by digital tools so that everyone has an opportunity to be heard. She says that “The heartbeat of creativity is our people and (Diversity & Inclusion) is in the center of our strategy. Curiosity is the new ‘It Factor’ to look for in talent because if they are curious, you can teach them anything. It is an art and a science to choose great leaders. We get the art part right but we need to use the data more to get to the science part.”
Jacqui also claims that curiosity is age independent in that you can manifest an interest in anything at any age.

After showing the audience, Kelly Rowland’s Crown in collaboration with Dove and Gillette’s toxic masculinity ad, Mark Read claims that it’s important to feature diversity themed ads because “If we can change how one person feels about themselves then that’s valuable.”

Monique Nelson, Chair & CEO of UWG rounds out the panel saying “We (people of color) have to be extraordinary, and not just good. We are often told “oh, you’re a real agency!”
She claims that to move forward, we need to transition from niche identities to genuine self-identity. We need to move from lifestyle reflection to cultural fluency. The question to ask is “How does culture move commerce?”

When I asked Adrianne why it’s taken this long for the diversity agenda to reach the C-Suite, she claims that it takes about 10 years for a movement to gain mass impact. The Madison Avenue initiative took 10 years, and then the Madison Avenue project followed suit. The Cannes Can: Diversity Collective is now in its prime time to take action rather than just talk about the issues.

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