Does Cannes have a diversity problem?

The organization is under scrutiny after removing the only person of color from the Deans list of the Cannes Lion School

The Cannes Lions are recognized as the most prestigious awards in the advertising industry. For decades, advertisers, marketers and PR professionals have flocked to the South of France to network and celebrate the best and most creative campaigns of the year at the Cannes Lion Festival of Creativity. 

But recent changes in leadership at the Cannes Lion School, its career accelerator program for young professionals in the industry, have called into question whether the organization reflects the lack of diversity in the advertising industry.

In a Twitter thread published Sunday, lecturer and chairman at Hyper Island Abraham Abbi Asefaw called out Cannes Lions for removing his deanship and replacing him with a white person after ignoring his requests to fill his role with a person of color. The decision removed the only person of color leading the program. 

In the thread, Asefaw called attention to previous commitments to diversity made by Cannes leadership, and chastised the organization for failure to meet them. 

The thread revealed private apologetic emails from the Cannes organization to Asefaw, which described the choice to replace him with a white person was a “quick fix” under pressure to hire someone. 

The series of tweets quickly received reactions from industry professionals who shared their own thoughts about lack of diversity and representation at Cannes, along with messages of support for Asefaw. 

Cannes Lion responded to Asefaw in a Twitter thread on Monday, acknowledging the “misstep” but claiming it was “unintentional.”

While some acknowledged the apology as a step in the right direction, other industry leaders were not buying it, rejecting the apology and calling Cannes Lion to do more. 

Campaign US wants to know: do you think Cannes has a diversity problem? 


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