Soul POVs

Normalising Diversity In The Creative Industry

Written by Patrick Lylo

A common thread for many of the best sessions that I’ve seen at this year’s Cannes festival has been Cultural Impact – specifically through the lenses of diversity, social impact, and the current political climate – and how these topics have forever changed the creative storytelling that we as marketers are charged with.

It’s no secret that the world today is different. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach anymore, and there really shouldn’t be. The consumers we target cannot be reached with blanket statements, because no 2 people are truly the same. Today’s world is incredibly diverse. Different cultures are receptive to different things. LGBTQ is no longer taboo. Gender fluidity has been widely embraced by today’s youth – and it’s about time that the rest of the world follow suit. Individuals have more ways to express themselves than ever before with the rise of new Media in The Digital Age. And we no longer stand still in the face of social injustice – just look at the immense impact that has come from social movements such as #MeToo.

Brands need to be conscious of this modern world, and adapt accordingly. But authenticity is absolutely key. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard Pepsi’s infamous blunder from last year cited as the perfect example of what not to do. It’s been over a year since the ad debuted – and was quickly taken down – yet it’s continued reference is a clear example that we aren’t quick to forget such a tone-deaf mistake.

Yet at the same time, there is plenty of truly inspiring, great work out there that has been highlighted at this year’s festival. Industry leaders coming together to drive change through amazing initiatives such as SeeHerThe Gun Safety Alliance, and Project YouDoYou. Brand-driven programs such as AT&T’s Hello Lab – in partnership with Fullscreen – where up-and-coming, diverse filmmakers are paired with industry entertainment leaders to bring their stories to life through film.

Perhaps the biggest key takeaway is that brands need to take an honest look internally before any attempt at a tie to social good. If the cause you want to support isn’t authentic to your brand or mantra, it can quickly come across as exploitative – and the modern consumer is savvy enough to see right through it. If your board is just a room of older, white men – then it’s about time to diversify. It’s all about accountability. We need to take responsibility for the storytelling that we put out into the world. We need to change and adapt to the modern landscape, and use our talents to drive social change – not just sell products. We need to identify what is important, what we can fix, and invest to support that. There is still so much work to be done, and it’s going to take active participation from all of us.

I’ll end with an amazing quote from Matt Castellanos (Filmmaker & AT&T Hello Lab Ambassador) - “If we’re in Cannes 2022, and there’s still a need to talk about diversity in filmmaking, that means we fucked up.”

A few key quotes from today:

  • “Nina Simone says art should reflect the truth – and I think we can all agree that’s entirely true.” - Matt Castellanos – AT&T Hello Lab Ambassador, Filmmaker
  • “Part of the artistic process is to be bad at first and get better. Hardly anyone is great right out the gate.” - Lena Waithe – AT&T Hello Lab Ambassador, Emmy Award-Winning Writer, Actress
  • “When it comes to empowerment - and enabling empowerment - for us it’s not a one-and-done, it’s a strategy.” – Valerie Varvas – Senior Vice President, Advertising and Creative Services, AT&T Mobility and Entertainment Group
  • “Right now we live in a world where we expect instant gratification.” -  Matt Castellanos – AT&T Hello Lab Ambassador, Filmmaker
  • “We as brands are obsessed with our moments. But it’s not a moment, it’s a movement.” - Maureen Polo – SVP, Brand Studio – Fullscreen
  • “When working with Influencers, don’t be a brand that dictates what you want them to say. They know their voice, they know their audience.” – Valerie Varvas – Senior Vice President, Advertising and Creative Services, AT&T Mobility and Entertainment Group
  • “As an artist, you don’t want to feel like a whore – working with so many brands.” - Common
  • “We’re in for some fireworks at tomorrow’s talk with Sir Martin.” - random passerby
  • “When we want to persuade someone and move them, we talk to their heart, not their head, using stories.” - Tham Khai Meng – Worldwide Chief Creative Officer & Co-Chairman at Ogilvy & Mather