The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is one of the most prestigious events in the creative communications and advertising industry worldwide, celebrating creativity, and recognizing excellence through multiple awards. It also marks the start of a new year for the industry, as they begin preparing for the next edition of the festival, in the hopes of winning an award and delivering creative excellence.
In the most recent Cannes Lions, held from June 19 to 23, Antonio “Tronic” McDonald, founder and chief creative officer of New York-based creative production studio KUAMP, spoke on three panels featuring topics on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB), with one taking place at the prestigious Palais. McDonald says that all three panels were received positively, and he shared his more than 20 years of knowledge and experience, as well as how to make Black voices heard in the creative industry.
“The world is changing, and this was what I‘ve stressed in the panels I’ve appeared on. I also linked DEIB to a business use case, showing how it’s good for the bottom line, and I think this is really how we can connect with people and get the message across,” McDonald says.
Multiple statistics have shown that diverse organizations are more likely to be financially successful, and McDonald believes that the creative industry can greatly benefit from this. While the industry is indeed becoming more diverse, it is still not reflective of the makeup of the general population, unfortunately.
According to McDonald, it is especially important for the industry to champion DEIB, especially in light of the US Supreme Court’s overturning of affirmative action in universities. Given that university graduates make up a large proportion of executive roles, the removal of affirmative action may result in less diverse graduating classes in a few years’ time, and less diverse new executives further down the line. This also shows a rising tide of conservatism and political polarization in the country.
“In my panels, I called attention to the way we talk about DEIB. I keep going back to humanity and the community that’s bringing us all together, as well as focusing on how being diverse and inclusive can help companies tap into large growth opportunities. It’s sad how DEIB is becoming taboo in some circles, but there are also positive developments that have happened in recent years. I feel like people in the industry do really want to reach diverse audiences and truly care, because they know, if nothing else, it’s good for the bottom line and society as a whole. If a company is actively resisting diversity, they’re tricking and shortchanging themselves, and they’re missing out on so many great opportunities to bring people together.”
McDonald echoed the global chief brand officer of one of the world’s largest consumer goods conglomerates and advertisers, that roughly 50% of the global population is Black and Brown, and not representing or marketing to them means businesses are missing out on a huge source of potential customer growth.
“The industry as a whole should remember that everything isn’t black and white. It’s a business and people want to make money. So, in order to do so, you need to actually appeal to a rapidly growing audience, as well as it being the right thing to do. So I want the industry to adopt that mindset and we at KUAMP are here to serve that growing population. We want to serve everyone, as we are all part of one family – humanity. Our work seeks to connect with people and we want to make sure that everyone is engaged by the work that we do.”
With a new year starting for KUAMP and the advertising industry following the wrap-up of Cannes Lions, McDonald will continue to focus on DEIB issues in the advertising industry and connect with a wider audience by crafting messages and campaigns that resonate with everyone.
“My motto as I went to Cannes was ‘A Black man Cannes’, highlighting my journey from growing up in Canarsie, Brooklyn, making it in the creative industry, and, now, speaking in front of and interacting with the industry’s best. I’m energized at the reception to our panels, and this will serve as the continuation of KUAMP’s journey to drive equality in the advertising and marketing space, and the community at large,” McDonald says.
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