The Paradigm Paradigm | Advertising

While many savor their victories and recover from an in-person Cannes Lions festival, others are having conversations about building back better with more inclusive experiences.

In 2021, inclusive creative campaigns reached a tipping point and received top accolades. We saw it again this year as FCB Inferno, Virgin Group and LinkedIn #DyslexicThinking Campaign, which redefines dyslexia as a business skill, won the Titanium Lion. McCann’s Projector The advert for Mastercard, which won a Silver Lion, featured a blind person easily using their touch cards, which have notches for easier identification without having to see the card.

Inequalities were also identified. The Cannes Can Diversity Collective, now in its fifth year, is elevating diversity, equity and inclusion with conversations at Inkwell Beach, recognizing diverse work and supporting the participation of communities of color and underrepresented groups.

Black Madison Avenue, a bold series documenting a no-holds-barred conversation about the black experience in advertising, sadly, he didn’t even make the shortlist. It did, however, spark conversations onstage. There is still a lack of diversity among those judging ad industry awards – something the industry is committed to working on in 2020.

Panels and speakers continued to focus on the need to operationalize accessibility and welcome the disability community. A session brought together panelists, including Wunderman Thompson’s Director of Global Planning, Nicky Buss, and representatives from P&G, among other brands, to share practical approaches to accessibility with attendees. Google was the festival’s first accessibility partner, a relationship that we hope will lead to meaningful engagements.

For people with disabilities, physical access to beaches, stages, venues and other access points can currently present significant barriers. International festivals bring together a confluence of languages, but often sign language and subtitling are not catered for for deaf and hard of hearing attendees. Festivals, stages, and signs evoke colors and sounds that can literally be sensory overload for neurodivergent attendees. Establishing quiet spaces, setting up sensory alerts for loud noises and bright lights, and creating reduced sensory moments can benefit everyone. Rescue stations are as essential as directions to the bathroom for people with disabilities who use service dogs.

If authentic and effective accessibility and inclusion are the main goals of our campaigns, we must learn to work with people with disabilities earlier, and more often, throughout the creative process as consultants, co-creators and full-time employees. Hesitation may linger around the unknown, but programming, training, educating and equipping able-bodied teams will lead to more commitments to bring in disabled talent.

The disability community is one of the most diverse and intersectional minority groups, comprising people with apparent and unapparent disabilities, including neurodiversity. The language, terminology, and actions of disability continue to evolve, and best practices, even for simple conversations, are often not taught in school or in DE&I training. Disability-friendly language, etiquette training, and allyship are the foundation of moving forward, so agencies and brands can welcome more people with disabilities not only into their creative work, but also into the creative process.

Whether due to cost, timing or inaccessibility, many people may not be able to physically attend events. Hybrid and digital events have the potential to augment and amplify in-person industry gatherings. The metaverse can facilitate immersive and interactive virtual places to showcase agency work or provide a space where people can connect.

We live in a world where physical and psychological safety are of paramount importance, in times of celebration and recognition. Everyone in Cannes, regardless of their minority group, should feel welcomed, safe and supported. This means that protocols, crisis communications and global messaging are detailed, accessible, inclusive and dynamic.

We talk about Cannes, but we should amplify these principles every day. Hire and elevate minorities to leadership positions. Promote supplier diversity. Elevate conversations between affinity groups and employee resource groups. Support industry organizations that advocate for minority growth. Set yourself short-term, measurable goals, governance, and accountability to follow through on your efforts. Recognize the value of your IE&D leadership to elevate, differentiate and enable your business to achieve more.

As the monumental moments of Cannes fold and fade, we must all boldly inspire meaningful engagements. There are plenty of opportunities to continue the inclusion revolution.


Josh Loebner is Global Head of Inclusive Design at Wunderman Thompson.

Marilyn J. Hernandez