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Getting Real on DE&I on Day 3 at the LBB & Friends Beach


Speakers drilled into the industry’s painfully slow progress on diversity and inclusion - and shared some inspiring and tangible advice

Getting Real on DE&I on Day 3 at the LBB & Friends Beach

Day three at the LBB & Friends Beach at Cannes saw a range of speakers take the industry to task over its progress - or lack thereof - to live up to its responsibility to create a truly inclusive, equitable and diverse space for employees and audiences. It was a day of insightful conversation and - more importantly - hard, tangible actions that anyone can take to make sure that they can make sure the advertising and marketing landscape is a better place for all.

Kicking things off in the morning, the Advertising Association was here to speak about the findings of their All In Census. Sharon Lloyd Barnes, commercial cirector and inclusion lead, Advertising Association, was joined by Efrain Ayala, global director of diversity & inclusion, Reckitt; Harjot Singh, global chief strategy officer; and Bukola Garry, adam&eveDDB’s chief diversity officer. The conversation was scathing of the industry’s lack of progress and buy-in to improving inclusion, with Harjot saying that the response to the All In survey of 700 people showed that most people throughout the industry did not consider DE&I their responsibility. 

[Pictured above: Advertising Association’s All In Census talk]

Bukola spoke of the emotional labour of working in an industry as part of a marginalised group and advised others to protect themselves. For example, the popular mantra about ‘taking your whole self to work’ is something that’s particularly tone deaf.  “I'm like, never do that. Bring some self. Keep something for yourself so you can stay fueled, particularly if you're not from a majority group because we are performing just to show up, particularly over the past two years.”

A fireside chat with Cephas Williams, founder of Black British Network was next to hit the beach stage. Joined by Barry Cupples, group CEO of Talon Outdoor, the discussion asked whether industry leaders have kept their promises to support Black British people. Organisations and leaders signed up to change after the murder of George Floyd. Two years on - what has been done?

[Pictured above: Cephas Williams’ panel]

In 2019, after the initial announcement of the covid-19 pandemic, Talon released a global campaign titled 'Sending Love'. In a time of global unrest and in the face of the pandemic, the idea was to use the power of OOH media to send love globally. After the killing of George Floyd, Talon reached out to Clear Channel and Cephas to see how they could work with Cephas more closely in a bid to approach the Black Lives Matter movement in a way that was not tokenistic but came from real understanding. This led to a series of conversations with Cephas and the leadership of Talon to establish how they could work together for the long term to systematically use the united power of OOH media and billboards for good. The initial focus became ‘Letter to Zion’ as Cephas spent the summer of 2020 writing this letter to his son and was already in conversations with Clear Channel about launching this campaign on his birthday October 9th. This conversation quickly led to uniting eight OOH media companies to support the 'Letter to Zion' campaign with a £1 million pound campaign push.

This campaign has been displayed across the country and is the start of an ongoing and powerful relationship that will be committed to supporting the Black British Network in driving the change we need to see in this country and the wider world.

Following up on this, the general consensus was still disheartening, although with glimmers of hope. Cephas expressed his exasperation with the lack of pro-diversity initiatives which actually support Black people with the resources to lead the change, and lead businesses. He referred to how systemic problems with agency holding companies had failed him in his attempts to find backing, although he expressed deep respect for people at the head of those kinds of organisations, namechecking WPP CEO Mark Read and former Unilever CMO Keith Weed as people he believes have genuine best intentions.

Cultures in creative companies need to be more welcoming for Black people, both Cephas and Barry believe, noting that when Black people earn opportunities at agencies, they are often not comfortable and end up leaving.

Also, Cephas noted that top agency leaders must enforce any no-tolerance policy on racism they are bound to, sharing that in the UK he felt it’s common for people to carry on employing that one person we all know that’s “a bit racist”.

To finish, Cephas was asked what the next campaign would be if he had the right support and funding. His response: Every screen in the world black with his name in bold, white letters. So people would be curious and discover his message.

[Pictured above: World Federation of Advertisers’ panel]

In the afternoon, the World Federation of Advertisers shared their global DE&I survey - and some real tangible action points. In a panel moderated by Belinda Smith, global diversity ambassador at World Federation of Advertisers, Gráinne Wafer, global brand director, Guinness, Diageo and Sarah Jenkins, managing director of Saatchi & Saatchi London said that intention has to be backed by policies and processes - and that we need to hold ourselves accountable to our commitments.

“You can't do it by wishing for it to happen. You have to actually invest in those decisions and those things and, you know, it's only then that you'll start to create a culture where people actually feel they belong, they can thrive,” said Grainne.

Sarah said that she’d been finding clients increasingly asking about the agency’s diversity and inclusion in RFIs. “As much as diversity is a competitive advantage, the more we work together, the quicker change can come.”

After a diversity and inclusion audit of the agency exposed some gaps and biases, the agency has been proactively working to change. And one thing Sarah has found particularly helpful in getting people who may not consider diversity and inclusion to be their problem to engage has been to work with schools in working class and ethnically diverse areas. It connects the agency, gives them a real buy-in to these children’s futures - and gives these children a more creative education at a time when education budgets are being hacked back.

[Pictured above: Creative Equals’ panel]

Next up, Creative Equals presented a panel discussing the shallowness of the advertising industry’s approach to diverse casting. ‘Is Diverse Casting Just Window Dressing?’ saw Creative Equals’ Ali Hanan interview Efrain Ayala, global DEI marketing excellence at Reckitt and Tamara Littleton CEO of The Social Element discuss the damage that seemingly diverse casting can do when it deals in harmful stereotypes or negative portrayals and why brands and agencies need to engage diverse voices throughout the creative process. 

“For us, it’s about not using stereotypes to tell a story - and that’s really lazy storytelling to be honest,” said Efrain.

As a sign of how passionate and engaged the audience was, questions and personal stories flowed from the audience throughout the panel. And as Tamara talked about the responsibility she feels as a leader to be a role model and to make her teams feel able to be themselves, which she does by ‘outing herself at every meeting’, one casting director in the audience said he was inspired to revert to his Indian name. He had changed his name as a drama student when he was told that his name would hold him back. 

To round off the day before happy hour, legendary photographer RANKIN took to the stage to outline his recently launched campaign ‘THE UNSEEN’ - a creative project to generate conversation and provoke change to challenge unfair censorship. RANKIN was joined on stage in a panel chaired by LBB’s Alex Reeves including Dr Carolina Are, censorship researcher, pole dancer, instructor and blogger, and Mesha Moinirad – personal trainer and advocate for the chronically ill community. Mesha lives with a stoma and uses his platform to raise awareness for those with Ulcerative Colitis as well as providing education that aims to make living with invisible disabilities more manageable. Mesha blogs under the alias Mr Colitis Crohn's, connecting with people across the globe reaching over 3 million followers across all platforms. He is the ambassador for Coloplast and patient advocate and board member for ASGBI (Association of Surgeons GB).

[Pictured above: LBB’s Alex Reeves (middle) with the RANKIN panelists]

The RANKIN CREATIVE team came across the issue of unfair online censorship, noting how those who have had their voices and work taken out of a discussion we all deserve a place in, but particularly those who live and build businesses online.

Both Mesha and Carolina have repeatedly been censored and ‘shadowbanned’ posts that are clearly not against established guidelines or posts where guidelines are not being equitably and equally applied. Or where safety and sensitivity tools for age protection could have been used instead of censorship methods.

While noting that censorship can be important in its function as a protective tool, the panel said that it is often inadvertently used against people largely from marginalised groups or identities – something Carolina’s research has frequently highlighted.

Mesha spoke about his experiences being censored for ‘violence’ due to educational content on stomas and chronic illness and how his account of 4 million followers was completely lost – forcing him to build his following from scratch again.

The website with all 300+ entrants is now live, so the panel insisted everyone looks, explores and uses it as a resource – that’s Hopefully this can lead to policy change and legislation which will make online censorship a fairer process.

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LBB Editorial, Fri, 24 Jun 2022 12:57:00 GMT