Philippe Krakowsky

Cannes Lions 2023

Holding Company Chiefs On AI And Inclusion: Philippe Krakowsky

The CEO of Interpublic Group talks to us about the role of diversity in creativity, his ambitions, and what more the industry could be doing to improve it

By Philippe Krakowsky

Today we catch up with Philippe Krakowsky to hear about his views on the importance of diversity both within IPG and the wider industry, and what he is doing to improve representation:

As CEO of IPG, what lessons have you learned about the role of diversity in the success of your business, and the work you do for your clients?

For me, one of the most important things when it comes to the work we do on inclusion and equity is that it’s an ongoing process. As an organization and as leaders, we’ve been at it for some time, yet there’s always more to learn and incorporate into our efforts.

I’m proud of how we show up as a company in an authentic way, whether that’s through our agencies’ creative work to promote antiracism or challenge biases, or through the increasingly diverse leadership teams that lead significant portions of our portfolio, and an ever-more diverse global workforce.

One of the main reasons for our progress on diversity over time is that, regardless of the macro conditions, we never wavered from making this a key business priority, or investing in the talent and resources to lead the work. Another is that there needs to be tangible accountability. If you incentivize people to focus on diversity – the same way we incentivize our leaders to focus on client growth, for example and hold them accountable like other business results – you see change.

That holds for business diversity as well, which is central to us and to our clients. We have to be working with suppliers who reflect the diversity of our world, which is why we actively seek out and provide opportunities for companies owned by women, racial and ethnic minorities, veterans, LGBTQIA+ people and people with disabilities. Those are priorities that need to be consistent across our industry.

Of course, there’s still so much to be done. We’ll continue to lean into a broad range of efforts to ensure that our leadership, our teams, and our work are representative of the markets that we serve, that our culture embodies fairness, and that opportunity is equally available to all of our colleagues and business partners.

What are your ambitions around diversity over the next 5 years?

Over the next five years, we plan to keep executing on a global strategy that creates more alignment and accountability across all our agencies. In our approach to DEI, we’ve traditionally been somewhat U.S.-centric, yet people and culture, inclusion and exclusion, exist everywhere. That’s something that’s always been evident to me, given my experience as both an immigrant and someone who operates in professional settings in a language and culture not my own.

Going forward, we’ll be more intentional about measuring belonging in all our markets and tailoring our strategies and approaches to have a global reach with local relevance. We plan to continue growing diverse leadership teams, but even more specifically in areas where we see gaps that are critical to the business, such as in creative fields, and client business leadership. We also recognize the role we play in the industry, and we are committed to ensuring that the work we create (and the people who create it) is transformational to our communities and impacts positive behaviors in our society.

Are there any areas of DE&I that you think the industry has not started to address properly?

Our industry has experienced rapid change in recent years and shifts that require new and emerging skill sets. We can do a better job of being very transparent about what it takes to thrive in our industry, and within our agencies. We should be giving all our talent and future talent the playbook for success, especially with emerging technologies, changing priorities and marketplace demands. There are so many technologies that are bringing incredible excitement to the industry, as well as new functionalities and challenges. Taking an ethical and human-based approach to these technologies is absolutely essential. We’ve seen the issues that certain media are creating in our society, and not being deliberate, and keeping an equity lens on areas like data, consumer privacy, and now AI could mean we undo a lot of progress, especially when it comes to the authenticity we've worked hard to build in our teams.

Critics say that AI is already reinforcing and exacerbating many challenges already faced by society, such as bias, discrimination and misinformation. How do you think this is going to impact the use of AI in advertising and marketing?

Across every industry sector, the focus on the dramatic impact of AI is understandably intense. We’re consistently being asked by all stakeholders, from clients and employees to the investor community, how these tools and technologies will impact our business and those of our partners.

This isn’t the forum in which to speak to the opportunities that AI represents, either in areas of our business like data, media and analytics, where we’ve been incorporating machine learning for some time, or in our creative capabilities, where we’re sorting out how best to use a breadth of new inputs to inform the human creative process.

What is core to your question is to keep top of mind the role we have to play in shaping how AI and the work we do has the potential to impact society at large. That means being fluent in AI tools and understanding the unintended consequences of the ways large language models work and the data sets they use for training and decision-making. As with our policies on privacy and the ethical use of data, or digital media responsibility, both of which are areas in which we’ve lead the industry, deciding how we deploy AI in the service of our work, without amplifying bias or creating risk for our clients and their brands is something we will be very focused on in the days ahead.


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