At Cannes, LGBT, Racial Diversity Content Falls To The Fringe

  • by June 27, 2017

The advertising industry was buzzing in May when Ad Age reported that women would represent 43.5% of the judges at the Cannes Lions festival that took place last week. This is a big shift from just 3 years ago, when in 2014 the total of female judges was a dismal 28.5%. This is a welcome shift among the chorus that the industry as a whole must become more diverse.  

Worth noting however, is that while gender equality was a well-represented thread woven through Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity 2017 programming, themes around LGBT visibility as well as racial minorities remained largely absent. 

While programming related to issues of LGBT and racial diversity on the main staged was lacking, the fringe program picked up the slack. The fringe of the festival is dotted with various activations from cabanas to beach houses hosted by media organizations, ad tech companies, agencies and many other firms that stretch across the advertising ecosystem.  Many of the locales host thought leadership sessions and meetups alike throughout the week of the festival. 



YouTube led the pack with LGBT programming dedicating their whole Friday as “Pride Day” and the full day of content and activities were dedicated to LGBT visibility including highlighting “A Brand’s Power to Shift Social Rights.”

Also on the fringe TrueX hosted the second annual Cannes in Color celebration, hosted by I.D.E.A. Initiative.  The goal of the I.D.E.A. initiative is to highlight issues and opportunities within Technology, Entertainment, Advertising, Media and Marketing that relate to inclusion, diversity, equality and awareness.  The event combined a party and a panel to explore these issues. 

For main stage programming, it’s not only the responsibility of Cannes Lions to court this type of content for the festival in future years, festival sponsors must lead the way to more representation of this type of content on stage.  And if not for the sake of progress, Piera Gelardi, Co-founder of and Executive Creative Director at Refinery 29 points out, “Diversity is not about altruism, it’s about good business sense”.  She spoke on one of the two panels that spoke specifically about racial and LGBT issues hosted by Getty Images, “The Power of Re-picturing Stereotypes.” 

And he’s right, while it still can be about altruism, for brands it’s good for business especially when advertising to millennials.  Millennials, our most populous, diverse and highly educated generation spends about $600 billion dollars annually and they favor brands that represent diversity in their advertising, especially where it relates to the LGBT community. 

According to Google, 47% of consumers under the age of 24 are more likely to support a brand if they have seen an LGBTQ themed ad.  And don’t overlook the buying power of the LGBTQ community as a whole--Bloomberg reports a steady increase in the economic contribution of LGBTQ shoppers since 2012, spending $917 billion in 2015 and on track to hit 1 trillion per year by 2020. 

Brands and agencies understand this, as they have carried the torch for LGBT content over the past two years in both video and print.  Big brands like Target, Nike, Clairol, Tiffany, Campbell’s, Lexus, Macy’s Dorito, Wells Fargo, Nordstrom, Apple, Honey Maid, Starbucks, Tylenol, Ikea, Google, Microsoft, DirecTV, Bud Light, Guinness, Google have all contributed to the diversity canon in some form. 

Cannes Lions bills itself as a festival of creativity in media, entertainment, advertising and healthcare.  Those disciplines are often on the forefront of pushing creative boundaries, innovating rapidly and know how to connect with intended audiences.  If that is to remain the case, festival programming needs to reflect the diversity of the cultural moment and in this case, it’s well past due.

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