Cannes Lions 2023
Holding Company Chiefs On AI And Inclusion: Hiroshi Igarashi
The Dentsu CEO and president talks about why Dentsu's vision is on people-centered transformation, with diversity at its heart
16 June 2023
In the next of our interviews with the holding company chiefs, we catch up with the CEO and president of Dentsu:
As CEO of Dentsu, what lessons have you learned about the role of diversity in the success of your business, and the work you do for your clients?
Dentsu holds a unique position in the industry as a business which was founded in Japan over 120 years ago. This longevity is both a reflection of our commitment to long term planning, a trait found in many Japanese organizations, and also our recognition that expansion is the key to growth. That is not simply about geographical expansion to increase revenue, but to expand the breadth and depth of viewpoints, knowledge and understanding among our people.
This diversity is truly the lifeblood of business and with that comes a criticality around equal opportunities and outcomes, as well as the overriding necessity to ensure everyone is felt welcomed and respected. When combined we do our best work for clients, offer the best opportunities for our people and have the biggest positive impact on society that we’re capable of. Those are outcomes worth fighting hard for.
In January, when we brought our international business and our Japan business together, we did so for the first time with one vision, one strategy and under one globally diverse management team. But global oversight is not enough to drive change, so in addition, we have Global DEI Leadership embedded into each our regions, with Yuko Kitakaze, our dentsu Japan Chief Sustainability Officer, alongside our Chief Equity Officers including Christena Pyle, dentsu Americas, Pauline Miller, dentsu EMEA and Rashmi Vikram, dentsu APAC. Having these leaders in place is a difference that creates standout experiences for our people and our clients by ensuring cultural nuance and resonance.
Are there any areas of DE&I that you think the industry has not started to address properly?
The issues we must address around DEI as an industry are broad and deep – in fact it would be true to say that we should never consider our work to be “done” in this space. Part of this is also about driving accountability and transparency across the industry, our teams and our work.
Dentsu is a business of 70,000 people now and with that we understand and value the significant role that we play in creating positive change, progressive policies and representation throughout our teams. This year we expanded our DEI report to share a wider view of global progress, with initiatives and stories from across Dentsu Group – but we can, and must, do more. We take a top-down and grassroots approach to our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts so that DEI permeates every aspect of our business and I think that also shows in the work that we’re producing.
Last year our dentsu Japan team developed All Players Welcome, a ground-breaking technology solution that gave sufferers of ALS and other motor neuron diseases, the opportunity to create and collaborate on music-making, simply using eye movement. A live demonstrating bringing together artists from around the world over the internet, was met with rapturous applause at Cannes in 2022. This year at Cannes we’ll be showcasing the work of our Merkle teams in DACH, who have created Devinir, a system which allows users to control graphical interfaces just using brain waves. While technology won’t develop quickly enough for many sufferers, inventions such as these are beginning to change the way provide accessibility and inclusive for some.
Away from the world of technology, Dentsu Creative US’s work with Crayola took their most well-known product (the humble yet mighty crayon) to market, in a new way which would help children overcome the limitations inherent in many coloring packs: a lack of skin tone color options that would allow them to truly capture themselves, their families and their friends in the pictures they draw. Our work to launch Crayola’s Colors of the World campaign not only resulted in huge levels of engagement and sales, but united and represented kids around the world, equipping them with life changing tools to promote belonging.
When I think about dentsu’s vision to be at the forefront of people-centered transformations that shape society, it is examples like these which show we’re on the right path. Being people-centered innately means we must also be diverse and so we’ll continue this mission relentlessly.