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Watch: Advertising and marketing's biggest names urge industry to tackle diversity challenge

#CannesInColour: how brands and agencies are creating a more inclusive ad industry, was created by Campaign to address the lack of diversity – both brand-side and in Adland – that is hindering creativity.

Jonathan Mildenhall, chief marketing officer of Airbnb, used the platform of Cannes Lions to recruit more diverse talent for his own brand, calling on people of colour and women to meet with Airbnb and show them their books.

Mildenhall aims to build the world’s most diverse and “culturally-surprising” in-house creative team. He said: “We all have a responsibility to make the on-ramps into our industry as broadly accessible as possible.”

There is still has a long way to go when it comes to inclusivity. Jean-Rene Zetrenne, senior partner and chief talent officer for North America at Ogilvy & Mather, says there are challenges for people of colour in the professional arena “because mostly we don’t see them”.

Bringing it back to the work

While diversity was a key theme at the festival this year, concerns remain that the industry will simply move its attention to the “next big thing” rather than committing to the tangible action points that will engender change. Some industry experts believe making the diversity debate about the work will power meaningful change.

Laura Jordan Bambach, chief creative officer at Mr President and co-founder of the Vowss, an initiative aimed at highlighting work by female directors and creatives, says: “Cannes is a creative festival and it is great to have the conversations around the structures but what really inspires people and will inspire change is seeing amazing work.”

Brands as catalysts for change

The role of marketers as catalysts for change is also coming to the fore; as they are the clients holding the purse strings they have the power to enforce change on agencies slow to embrace the need for a more diverse workforce.

Michele Oliver, vice-president of marketing at Mars, says:  “One of the conversations that I’ve been part of is how much the client should demand from the agency. I think we should co-create targets and we will meet in a year’s time and see if we have met them.”

Talk is cheap

However, such tangible commitments remain thin on the ground within the advertising industry. A number of industry leaders expressed frustration that the ongoing diversity debate remains firmly wedded to the realms of thought-leadership rather than tangible change.

Tham Khai Meng, co-chairman and worldwide creative officer, Ogilvy & Mather, lays down a challenge to the industry: “The more diverse the group is, the more diverse the ideas are. Enough talk already – get this upstream.”

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