Brazilian creatives call out Cannes Lions for lack of diversity in jury

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Just one of the 24 Brazilian jurors selected for the 2022 festival are Black, despite half of the Brazilian population being Black.

Cannes Lions is under fire again for failing to meet the industry’s standards around diversity, equity and inclusion. 

A group of Brazilian creatives posted an open letter on Wednesday addressed to Cannes Lions CEO Simon Cook that points out the lack of diversity among the executives selected from Brazil to sit on the 2022 Cannes Lions jury. 

The coalition was led by global non-profit collective Papel & Caneta, which is supported by organizations including the AUE, Chapa Preta and Publicitarios Negros, a group of 2,800 Black creative professionals in Brazil.

The letter, published on an interactive website at dearcanneslions.com.br, directly addresses Cook in bold, white letters.  

“It’s possible that most Brazilian creatives you know are white, but the truth is that more than half of the Brazilian population is Black,” the letter reads. “So why among the 24 Brazilian jurors chosen for this year's Cannes Lions, only 1 person is Black?”

The letter continues: “We understand that it is not an easy task to select a jury, and that many factors need to be considered, but we as an industry are lagging in making the urgent changes that are needed to push this industry forward. We cannot remain silent about the lack of inclusivity and representation that is plaguing not only Brazil's creative potential but the rest of society.

“The creative and ad industries in Brazil have made immense progress over the years when it comes to the inclusivity and the empowerment of Black creative professionals. It would be a shame for an international organization like Cannes Lions to not match that progress in their jury selection.

“The question that we have for you Simon: if Cannes' criteria do not consider inclusivity and representation, then might the criteria need to be reconsidered?”

The letter invites readers to tweet their support directly at Cook and Cannes Lions with the hashtag #BlackBrazilianJurorsAtCannes.

“It is urgent for the Cannes Lions festival to rethink its jury selection criteria,” Gabriela Rodrigues, head of culture and impact at Brazilian agency Soko, told Campaign US in an email. “We know that currently independent agencies and independent careers are less likely to be chosen on juries. We know that having a history of Lions is a contributing factor in choosing a judge. But are these the best indicators of creativity? And is it from them that the festival intends to put into practice the inclusion and representation that it preaches so much?” 

She added: “We want less political factors and more fairness in the criteria. We want space for the bright Black people who exist in the Brazilian market -- and also outside Brazil -- to have a real chance."

This is not the first time Cannes Lions has come under scrutiny for a lack of commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Last year, the organization was called out by Abraham Abbi Asefaw, a former dean at the Cannes Lions Roger Hatchuel Academy learning program for young talent, for not replacing his seat as the only dean of color with another person of color.

Months after the incident, Cannes Lions announced it was bringing on a DE&I consultancy to review its diversity practices and processes. 

Raphaella Martins, a prominent Brazilian creative and member of the Papel & Canela team, vowed that the group of Brazilian creatives “will keep pushing” on the organization to improve. 

“This conversation is not about the benefit of a group only,” she said. “This conversation is to reinforce that a future for communications without Black Brazilian people in the center of it is no future at all.”

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