The annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is known for many things – sunshine, rosé wine and some of the most coveted awards in the advertising industry. Recently, it’s become known for being home to conversations about the difficult issues facing the business with regard to its poor track record of diversity, from the new “Glass Lion” award to honor campaigns that shatter gender stereotypes to a host of panel content about social consciousness in marketing.
Yet at the same time, the advertising, marketing, technology and media industries remain extremely homogenous at the top level. C-suites and boardrooms remain overwhelmingly white and male. Change is imperative, but it isn’t just a matter of being open-minded; it’s also good business. By 2020, over half of the millennials in the U.S. will be African-American, Hispanic or Asian-American. “Multicultural” is a sector of marketing and advertising that can be niche no more.
That’s why Christian Borges, SVP of marketing at true[X] and Fox Advanced Ad Products, co-founded a new organization called I.D.E.A. Initiative, along with executives from the likes of Neustar, Facebook and Nielsen, and Fox Networks Group (FNG) is proud to be involved. Created in 2015 to directly address and tackle the reasons why “diversity” campaigns in the business world too frequently amount to all talk and no action, I.D.E.A. stands for “Inclusion, Diversity, Equality and Awareness” as it works to further change in the media, technology, marketing, advertising and entertainment industries.
I.D.E.A.’s flagship event is “Cannes in Color,” a celebration of the organization’s principles and a call to action for the whole industry, raising the visibility of culturally diverse executives’ contributions to the entire industry.
“I.D.E.A. was formed with the intention of putting a business lens on the issues of Inclusion, Diversity Equality and Awareness as experienced by people of color in the fields of technology, entertainment, advertising, media and marketing,” said Kirk McDonald, President at PubMatic and Board Director for I.D.E.A. “While there has been a great deal of talk about this topic, with research demonstrating the business impact, there is still not enough action. We hope to initiate and engage the uncomfortable conversations that will drive the needed change.”
For the second year in a row, true[X] and FNG hosted Cannes in Color on the company’s yacht at the festival. This year, the event featured content as well as cocktails, with Adweek editorial director James Cooper moderating a panel that featured Parkwood Entertainment COO Steve Pamon, Spotify global head of partnership solutions Danielle Lee, and Amusement Park Inc. chairman and CEO Jimmy Smith. Word had spread about I.D.E.A.’s unique role at Cannes Lions – later in the afternoon, the legendary Rev. Jesse Jackson stopped by for a surprise visit.
“We will continue to engage around the industry events that we attend,” Kirk said. “These provide excellent opportunities for networking that’s already proven to be an important aspect of business and talent development. Ultimately, we want to make sure that the supply of diverse talent connects with the demand. We also want to make sure that the excuse of a weak supply chain of talent is removed from the objection of hiring managers.”
The founders of I.D.E.A. acknowledge that they continue to have considerable work to do, from addressing companies that claim they simply can’t attract diverse talent, to educating and mentoring rising stars, to ensuring that conversations about multiculturalism are expanded beyond human resources departments. But with the momentum built in Cannes and the energy around taking action, it’s clear that I.D.E.A. is more than, well, just an idea.
I.D.E.A. is looking at partnerships to amplify the conversation. It recently announced one with Forbes, which will launch the inaugural Forbes I.D.E.A. Summit in February 2018.
“Ultimately, if we intend to show the positive business value of Inclusion, Diversity Equality and Awareness, we know that we will have to do more than add programing to an existing event,” Kirk said.