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When brands reflect various identities in their advertising, audiences react positively and are more loyal to those brands. In light of this, Cannes Lions partnered with us for the third time to investigate the representation of gender and race in Cannes Lions Film and Film Craft creative work from 2006 to 2021. We also investigated the representation of LGBTQIA+ identity, disability, age, and body type from 2019 to 2021. Our main findings reveal:

  • Visually prominent female characters increased 13.7 percentage points across 2006–2021, going from 33.9% in 2006 to 47.6% in 2021. 
  • Representation of people of color increased 28.7 percentage points, going from 25.9% in 2006 to 54.6% in 2021. 
  • LGBTQIA+ identity representation has remained at around 2.0% for visually prominent characters from 2019–2021. 
  • The representation of disabled characters slightly increased from 2020 to 2021, going from 0.3% of visually prominent characters, to 1.3%. However, this is a decrease from 2019, when 2.2% of visually prominent characters were disabled. 
  • The representation of characters who are ages 60 and older has not improved across 2019–2021. While representation of these characters increased from 2019 to 2020, going from 7.0% to 8.3%, it decreased by 2.1 percentage points in 2021 (6.2%).
  • The representation of fat characters has decreased 1.6 percentage points from 2019 (7.2%) to 2021 (5.6%).


Based on these findings, we make the following recommendations to improve representation for the following identities:

  • Gender:
    • Increase the number of female characters shown in leadership positions and with authority, to counter common stereotypes about gender and power. 
    • Increase on-screen speaking time for female characters, to show that the voices of women are as important as those of men.
  • Race:
    • Increase the number of characters of color shown working and in work settings, to offer more positive depictions of people of color in the workplace. 
    • Continue to show characters of color in the outdoors, to create content that actively subverts racial stereotypes about recreational activities.
    • Significantly increase overall representations of prominent LGBTQIA+ characters, to match their true prevalence in the population. LGBTQIA+ characters comprised only 2.0% of prominent characters in 2021 creative work, but 11% of the global population identify as attracted to their same sex. 
    • Increase representations of LGBTQIA+ characters in the workplace; LGBTQIA+ representation in the workplace has been low for all years when it was examined (2018 to 2021). 
  • Disabilities:
    • Significantly increase the number of visibly prominent characters with disabilities, with the aim of approaching their actual prevalence in the population. People with disabilities were virtually absent in 2021 Cannes Lions creative work, comprising only 1.3% of characters on screen. 
    • Keep in mind that disability is multifaceted and may include physical, cognitive, and/or communication aspects. 
  • Age:
    • Increase prominence of characters ages 60 and older in creative work, to better reflect their prevalence in the population (34% in the United States). Representation of characters 60 and older decreased by 2.1% from 2020 to 2021.
    • Continue to depict characters 60 and older as intelligent and active, to counter stereotypes surrounding declining physical and cognitive ability.
  • Body type:
    • Significantly increase the inclusion of fat characters, who were only 5.6% of visible prominent characters in 2021 Cannes Lions creative work.
    • Ensure body-type diversity for both male and female characters; we observed slightly greater body-type diversity for men than for women.

Photo credit: Dean Mitchell / E+ via Getty Images