- Airbnb CMO Jonathan Mildenhall put out a call-to-action for more diverse hiring practices in the advertising industry and announced his company would use the upcoming Cannes Lions festival in June as an open casting call for women and people of color to meet with him for possible jobs, according to a recent Q&A with The Wall Street Journal.
- Mildenhall told the Journal that he's been in the industry for almost 30 years and, while lip service has been paid to diversity, it's only been in the last few years that he's seen a visible change. The CMO said he is attempting to affect his own change by not only actively looking to hire from a more diverse range of candidates, but also in demanding more diversity from the agencies Airbnb employs.
- Cannes Lions was chosen for the employee search because Airbnb found it hard to reach diverse applicants through more traditional channels. "I am going to go to the place where the top talent congregates and have women and people of color come in and share their books with our leadership team," Mildenhall told the Journal.
A lack of diversity in the advertising world has become a more pointed topic in a particularly charged political time, and a number of initiatives from lead industry groups including the 4A's and the ANA seek to improve multicultural marketing and representation to reflect broader societal shifts.
However, Mildenhall's interview with the Journal demonstrates that more open dialog isn't necessarily translating into concrete action. Airbnb has previously put a strong premium on diversity in its advertising, including with a Super Bowl TV spot this year that appeared to come as a sort of rebuke to President Donald Trump's since-blocked ban on travelers entering the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority nations. The home-sharing service clearly wants to reflect that inclusivity better behind-the-scenes.
Mildenhall's suggestion of also putting pressure on agencies to hire more women and people of color echoes a similar initiative by Ann Simonds in her time as CMO at General Mills.
For this year's awards, Cannes Lions has told its jurors not to recognize work that objectifies or perpetuates negative or harmful inequalities. Heads of the Advertising Club of New York have also asked industry award shows to ban work that reflects gender bias.