The reception at Eddie Murphy’s Come 2 America on Amazon Prime Video last year delivered Amazon marketing chief Ukonwa Ojo’s point when she said at Cannes Lions on Thursday that “without diversity, you can’t reach a diverse audience.”
Ojo, Global Chief Marketing Officer for Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Studios, stated: “Nielsen tracks streaming down to the minute [so] It’s hard for a movie to be number one compared to the many hours of television. When we started Come 2 America, a very black film, it was the only Nielsen ranked film to reach number one for two consecutive weeks. That is the influence of the black community.”
It proves that “diversity is not only the right thing to do, it’s a business imperative,” she added. “I don’t understand how you can be successful in business if you don’t do it so well. You look at the community you serve, and it’s imperative that the people making the decision reflect that community. It’s critical.”
Come 2 America is a sequel to the 1988 classic Come to America Directed by Craig Brewer. It was originally slated for a theatrical release before the Covid pandemic allowed Amazon to acquire the streaming rights.
Ojo joined other top black marketing executives at a Cannes Lions event for a panel entitled “Disruption, Paving the Way for Nextgen.” She was joined by panellists Anton Vincent, President of Mars Wrigley North America; and Kirk McDonald, CEO of GroupM, North America. The event was chaired by Jerri DeVard, Founder of the Black Executive CMO Alliance.
Vincent shared a similar story of his success in expanding the brand of one of Mars Wrigley’s most popular products, M&M’s, to mark the company’s 80th anniversary. “M&Ms are built around characters and are multicultural with their different shapes, sizes and colors. How do we turn this into a proposal? Move from fun to belonging, move from American to otherworldly.”
McDonald reminded delegates that black culture has long been recognized for residing in the nexus of arts and creativity, but that meant it also residing in product and business innovation “without recognition.” His company, which represents $54 billion in global advertising, has now compiled a list of five principles for investing: sustainability, responsible media and journalism, brand safety, data ethics and diversity, inclusion and equity.
The speakers are all among the 33 members of the Black Executive CMO Alliance, which was founded in March 2021 with DeVard’s mission “to share, to learn, to elevate and pay forward”.
Calling it a “community,” Ojo added, “It’s hard to be a CMO and even harder to be a black CMO. It can be lonely [so] It helps to have people walking the same path.”
Executives also discussed how delegates could best promote the cause of representation, with Oju offering some good advice. “Be very conscious of diversifying your teams [or] You’re going to miss nuances that matter,” she said. “If you are in a room with someone other than you, make them comfortable, let them speak. let them be different Bring that difference to the way you run your business to drive innovation for the business.”