As the curtain fell on the 70th Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, one initiative stood out in its audacious mission to redraw the lines of representation on the global stage: Black at Cannes. Spearheaded by founder and CEO, Peter Ukhurebor, this movement has offered a beacon of transformative change, generating unprecedented opportunities for Black creators worldwide.
Borne out of the movements that followed George Floyd’s passing, Black at Cannes swiftly took shape as a formidable force committed to creating a vibrant community of esteemed black executives. From a modest beginning of just ten members, this initiative has scaled rapidly to encompass over one thousand distinguished black senior executives from all corners of the globe.
“The idea is of access and opportunities—a perfect example is this year, for the first time, a Nigerian agency won a Cannes Lion. The reason being that there were enough people in the room who understood that aspect of creativity others wouldn’t comprehend on a usual basis,” Ukhurebor explained in his one-on-one interview with Brand&Culture. He cited the recent achievement of a Nigerian agency winning a Cannes Lion for the first time as an example of what can be accomplished when culture and creativity intersect in the right environment.
Black at Cannes’ tireless efforts for representation have sparked transformative change, establishing environments conducive to meaningful engagement and business collaborations. Beyond fostering impactful B2B interactions, Black at Cannes held a series of illuminating events. From the Fireside Chats on overcoming the diversity paradox and building wealth for black communities to the masterclass on captivating diverse audiences, these sessions embodied the spirit of the initiative.
One of the most noteworthy events was a conversation titled “Unbecoming”. In collaboration with Procter & Gamble’s My Black is Beautiful, Cartwright, and pocstock, attendees explored the expectations in their personal and professional lives.
“It’s been people trying to understand the idea or what we’re trying to pull forward,” Ukhurebor acknowledged, noting the challenges the initiative faced in an industry that often confines creativity to a streamlined perspective of culture.
He adds, “we are an organization pushing forward for change in an industry where conservation is very interesting and very reserved. People tend to believe they embrace creativity, but when it comes to reality, it is just streamlined into certain people’s perspectives of what they usually think culture is.”
Despite the hurdles, the importance of being at Cannes was undeniable for Ukhurebor. He recalled a recent interaction with Keith Cartwright, a creative powerhouse in advertising, whose work echoed the issues faced by black men like himself.
“Cannes is the hub of understanding creativity,” said Ukhurebor. His mission to push for more diversity in speaking engagements, opportunities, and overall representation at such a critical global event is a pivotal step towards the change he envisions.
“The most important thing to understand from his previous campaigns is that I see campaigns that look like me, understand my issues as a Black man. Cannes is the hub of understanding creativity.”
As Black at Cannes continues to shatter barriers and amplify representation, their presence at the 70th Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity was not just significant, but also a testament to the persistent, inspiring drive towards inclusivity in the world of advertising, media, and technology.