Comedian Rob Delaney Has a Solution for Achieving True Diversity in Ads

Let a person of color actually write the spot

CANNES, France—In a spirited, often-funny panel called "Creativity Is the Only Way to Survive" here today, comedians Rob Delaney, Rashida Jones and Keegan-Michael Key tackled issues related to black and biracial people in entertainment. And at one point, they addressed advertising directly.

Delaney, who is white, proclaimed to have a solution for TV spots that carefully, and sometimes awkwardly, cast a token person from various ethnic groups. A better approach to diversity? "Just have a black person write the commercial and see what happens," he said. 

After a healthy round of applause, Key added, "Just give them a chance."

Whether in advertising or entertainment, the panelists said, diversity is all about being organic by employing actual lessons from real life. 

"We all are wearing blinders and bias that we don't know we are wearing," said Key, who stars in Comedy Central's Key & Peele. "The way you take off the blinders is to hire people from completely different backgrounds."

The 45-year-old chatted with panelists about being biracial, a trait he shares with Jones and his comedic partner Jordan Peele. Key credited the election of President Barack Obama as a chief reason Comedy Central gave Key and Peele their show in 2012. 

TV executives saw the correlation between their story and Obama's, the son of a black man and a white woman, Key said. He recalled the nature of the conversation at that time: "OK, people love this guy's story. You guys have a similar story. Go for it."

Jones, meanwhile, said the creative industry is long overdue for employing more women in decision-making roles, stating "it blows my mind" that leadership is still so skewed toward men.

"The only reason white, old men have been in control for so long is because white, old men have been in control for so long," she said. 

McCann and The Paley Center for Media hosted the talk in the Lumiere Theatre at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. Jones mentioned the creative and casting control she had with the agency for a FIOS campaign, holding the effort up as a way to do advertising in an authentic fashion.

"It was the most pleasant, collaborative experience," she said. 

Check out a piece of that 2015 work below.