Cannes Lions looks to boost diversity at 2019 festival

Less than two percent of attendees are people of color or underrepresented communities.

Diversity and inclusion has been a hot topic in advertising and marketing for the last few years, yet the industry’s biggest event – the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity – remains a sea of sameness.

Still, less than two percent of Cannes attendees are people of color or underrepresented communities. But the festival is looking to drive conversations and change this year by teaming up with the Cannes Can: Diversity Collective (CC:DC) to launch Inkwell Beach.

The beach, named after the sandy location in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts that has been a home to African American vacationers since the 1890s, will serve as a place to highlight and celebrate diverse groups across creative, media, marketing, entertainment, technology and communications.

"Cannes Lions is where the best creative work in the world is judged to the highest standards," said Cannes Can: Diversity Collective Founder Adrianne C. Smith in a statement. "Each year the stakes are raised and access to inspiration via the internet and technology mount but the audience at the festival has remained the same. We can and must do better."

Smith launched CC:DC in 2017 after seeing the increase in discussions around diversity but a lack of faces of color at Cannes. The group looks to push beyond discussions by providing more opportunities for diverse individuals.

Various brands and agencies have already signed on to support Inkwell Beach at Cannes this year, including: BBDO, FCB, Grey Essence Global, Google’s Creative Campus, Ogilvy, Landor, Moxie, MRY, Zenith, TV One, Wunderman Thompson, VMLY&R and WPP. The CC:DC is also going to help 25 young people attend the Young Cannes Lions Academies.

Throughout the week, Inkwell Beach will be home to morning meditation sessions, "Courageous Conversations" with industry leaders and thought leadership efforts from partners, such as the 4A’s, Oberland, P&G, Dentsu, Egami Group, FCB, Leo Burnett, UniWorld, Turner, YouTube and more.   

"Our vision is bold," said Smith. "We want to transform the advertising industry – the space that controls the images of how we view the human condition – to be a radically inclusive space where the devaluing of human creative capital becomes repulsive to the DNA of the industry. Therefore, the current culture of ‘isms’ will be eradicated by a full embrace of equality, diversity and inclusion. Together, we will show how diversity of individuals and ideas is an industry win-win." 

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