Staff Reporters
Jun 30, 2016

Forget quotas, balanced slate needed for diversity: Economist at Cannes

Diversity, technology and sustainability dominated the discussion at the final Wake Up with The Economist panel session at Cannes.

CANNES – Unilever launched its #unstereotype campaign to advance portrayals of women during the Cannes Lions festival in France last week, with CMO Keith Weed agreeing that greater workforce diversity was vital to reflect the needs of the people served.

Weed shared that Unilever takes a pragmatic front-end approach to ensuring gender parity when it comes to recruitment.

“We don't believe in quotas, we believe in a balanced slate,” he said. “This requires putting in the initial hard effort in to get a diverse mix of people in the interview."

Weed was sharing his views during the final Wake Up with The Economist panel session, moderated by Daniel Franklin, executive editor at The Economist, which also featured Nina Bibby, consumer & marketing director (CMO) at O2.

The issue of diversity was first raised by AirBnb CMO Jonathan Mildenhall at another panel and the topic again led the discussion, with Bibby arguing that all industries need greater diversity to attract the diverse talent needed to generate great creative ideas which better resonate with today’s consumers.

“There's no doubt that this industry needs to be more diverse, the best creativity comes when you have diverse and competing views,” she said.

Keeping up with the tech wave

Weed also added that following dramatic technology advancement in the last five years, the industry be equipped to stay in front of the wave now that marketing has moved into a digital world,

"I believe too often we fall in to the 'hippo syndrome’, whereby we focus on the highest paid person's opinion. And they are not always the best people to make decisions in this digital world,” said Weed, pointing out that his own CEO has taken Unilever’s digital eLearning modules to ensure he also understands the digital native conversation of millennials.

Equally important to speaking their language is addressing the issues that matter most to this audience, and sustainability is an issue that both O2 and Unilever are striving to make more mainstream in their marketing strategy.

Doing so enables as a more meaningful value add consumer conversation as well as commercial benefits. Weed highlighted that he now has real evidence that people are buying into sustainable products, particularly if these sustainable options are priced the same as regular products.

"Our sustainability team sits within marketing,” he said. “We have real evidence that people are buying products based on sustainability grounds.”

VR at the foothills

As with earlier conversations this week, discussion at this panel also considered new technologies that are disrupting the industry and extending the reach of creativity.

Whilst excited by the possibilities of virtual reality (VR), both panellists agreed that this emerging technology is still in its nascent stage.

"We've been in a rectangle box for hundreds of years which VR is liberating us from,” said Weed. Though he noted that just because one can, doesn’t mean one shoud.

“Right now VR is landing, but as a marketing tool, it is still very much in the ‘foothills’,” he added.

Bibby noted that VR needs to create a value add for consumers. “It has to make something easier or more enjoyable and the technology has to be cheap enough,” she added.

However whilst it may be some time before virtual reality takes off, the application of data has seen a big push for both organisations in recent months, with personalised customer videos, combined in the case of Unilever with programmatic buying, offering solid commercial returns.

With the company’s status as the “second biggest advertiser in the world”, Weed pointed out that what's changing is the way we connect with people and the way people connect with brands.

“We need to be more global and more local,” he added. “Technology does not see boundaries across countries.”

Key insights:

  • Diversity: We don’t need quotas, we need a balanced slate
  • Be more than the brand
  • VR will lead us out of the rectangular box
  • We need to connect the data dots

Content for this article was provided by The Economist

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