Together with owners Ascential, Cannes Lions first joined the Black British Network as a founding member in 2021 alongside 17 other companies, joining a collective of leading UK organisations committed to supporting the agenda around dismantling systemic racism and achieving lasting change.
Cephas Williams was moved to introduce the Black British Network in 2020, following a public letter he wrote to his son, Zion, after the murder of George Floyd. The letter outlined the changes he hoped would take place during Zion’s lifetime, and invited leaders from his network and prominent UK organisations to pledge their support.
Last year, in a focus on providing access and developing talent in the marketing and creative industries, Williams personally invested £20,000 in a programme he created to bring Black talent to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2022. Following an invitation to speak at the Festival, Williams launched a campaign and laid down a challenge to the industry to support the programme. This resulted in fundraising which more than tripled Williams’ initial investment and included fully-funded access to Cannes Lions for Black talent and a full team of 14 people, six of whom directly took part in the program.
Williams’ enduring ability to spot opportunities that uplift and develop Black talent has inspired Cannes Lions to partner with Williams and the Black British Network, developing from the initial commitment through Letter to Zion and supporting Williams in scaling the program. This year LIONS will be working jointly with the Network on a campaign to take 50 Black individuals to Cannes Lions, and inviting organisations within the creative industry to join them on this mission.
Cephas Williams, Founder of the Black British Network said:
“One of the things I talk about a lot in this space is how people and organisations can use their superpower to support the change we want to see, using their skill sets and areas of influence to add pace to the change. I’m trying to do this through a programme that not only gives access but provides an ecosystem of support and proximity across the industry that otherwise wouldn't exist.
Since my initial conversations with LIONS’ chairman, Phil Thomas and Ascential CEO, Duncan Painter, the ongoing support from the organisation for my vision is important at a time when so many leaders and organisations remain slow to take action. I can’t stress enough how important this commitment to change from the top is, not just for the creative industries but for every brand and organisation connected to it. It is with this in mind that I call to other industry leaders at this time and say, ‘Join me. Do not forget the commitments many of you made after the murder of George Floyd and let’s do something tangible and meaningful together’.
We have a chance to really change the tide in this industry, using Cannes Lions as a springboard. Last year I put down £20,000 of my own money, I want to see other leaders and organisations who turn over much more than I do follow my lead on this and do the same.”
Simon Cook, CEO, LIONS, said:
“We are delighted to build on our partnership with Cephas and the Black British Network. We take our responsibility as a global platform very seriously, so driving change, creating opportunity and championing diversity, equity and inclusion is core to our values.
In 2023 we’ll be providing full access to the festival as part of this initiative, and working with Cephas on a curated Festival programme that provides an incredible experience, opportunity and access for Black talent.
It is so important that we continue to push for progress in our industry and I am looking forward to our ongoing collaboration towards our goal of greater representation and equity at Cannes Lions and beyond.”