Raahil Chopra
Jun 23, 2016

Cannes Lions 2016: "Advertising needs to find its Blues and Jazz": Blake Winfree

MullenLowe US' Erin Swenson Gorrall and Blake Winfree on the lack of diversity in advertising and the way out

Cannes Lions 2016:
Erin Swenson Gorrall, VP, group planning director, and Blake Winfree, associate creative director, MullenLowe US, took stage at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2016 on 22 June. They discussed 'How creativity can triumph racism' among other issues.
Gorrall set the tone for the session, saying, "Everyone's talking about different kinds of stuff. Whether it's gender inequality, women's rights, racism or anything else. Once these problems have been brought up, they become big and full of landmines. Now, rather than focusing on the problems, we want to focus on solutions."
For the solution, she urged the industry to look into their offices, offering a breakdown of what an average agency consists of and how it compares to offices in other fields.
"Black Africans in an agency are 6.6 per cent compared to 11.7 per cent (across industries). Hispanics are 10.5 per cent compared to 16 per cent and Asians are 5.7 per cent compared to 5.3 per cent. The other offices aren't the bar either, but we are woefully behind them. In 2044, America will have less than 50 per cent whites," she said, adding that agency offices would not be representative of that. 
Winfree took over. 
Comparing the advertising industry to the music industry, he said, "If music was done like this, we may not have had different genres of music like Blues, Hip Hop, Jazz. Advertising needs to find its Blues and Jazz."
Gorrall, having spoke with HR departments of agencies, was told that the reason for not having diversity in offices included lack of candidates from diverse backgrounds.
"But they recruit from colleges, graduation schools or other agencies. People who come from diverse backgrounds don't come from (t)here. Going (t)here would be a little too late," reasoned the speaker.
She then explained how one could get diversity into agencies, urging a lookout for streams like lawyers, nurses, teachers and businessmen.
As a solution, Winfree introduced Mullen's 2540 project.
Through this, the agency is inviting 25 agencies to reach out to 40 students (each) in schools that aren't the regular lookouts for agencies, she explained. From there the agency can create 1,000 new exposures to the world of advertising the following year. 
This, she contended, helps in making the industry more diverse, and in turn more creative.
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