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BW Businessworld

Concerns At The Cannes Lions

Some raised their voice against the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity — the advertising industry’s equivalent of the Oscars — saying it’s getting too expensive

Photo Credit : Shutterstock


Another Cannes Lions —  touted as the Oscars for AdLanders — comes to an end. Though every year the likes of one-off scam or fake work has kept journalists busy, this year the mega “controversy” for want of a better word, was directed at the festival itself.

The seed of this may have well been planted last year, when WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell observed how expensive the festival had become from a delegate and awards entry viewpoint. He reiterated his point at the festival this year, citing that only 500 people from WPP were attending the festival this year, compared to nearly 1,000 delegates in the previous years. Sorrell did not hesitate in calling Cannes Lions “too much of a money making exercise”, while on an on-stage conversation, in an event hosted by Financial Times on the sidelines of Cannes Lions.

Sorrell’s comment came a day after Publicis Groupe’s newly appointed CEO Arthur Sadoun announced that the company was taking a one-year pause from all advertising events and festivals, including the Cannes Lions.

While the development impacts every industry event including CES, dmexco, Effie Awards and Festival of Media, since Publicis chose the Cannes Lions platform to make the announcement, the festival is the place where some immediate backlash took place. Marketers at large have not taken the Publicis decision very positively, but the Groupe appears firm on it.

Even before the festival, some jurors had taken to social media on the change in the judging process this year, where a smaller number of jurors were on-site debating on the entries and what qualified for Gold, Silver, Bronze or Grand Prix Lion. A larger jury subset was involved in prejudging and shortlisting. But the concern, of a comparatively smaller awarding jury, was whether this change will adequately represent emerging and newer markets, or even newer forms of advertising disciplines.

While this year was among one of the best for the festival already, Cannes Lions does have a slew of issues to deal with — a first of sorts for the
festival, given the public nature of these concerns.

We got a chance to speak to Duncan Painter, the CEO of Ascential Plc, organisers of Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on day one of the Festival. Even before the Publicis and WPP statements were made, the one thing that stood out about Painter is the clarity to include all the industry stakeholders in any and all changes relating to the festival. He reiterated that this practice of the festival will continue as organisers aim to keep producing an event that not only reflects the changes in the industry but can help drive it and celebrate everything that the world of creativity represents.

True to his word, in the course of the week, Cannes Lions sprung into action and created an advisory committee to help “shape the festival’s future and ensure it continues to respond to industry needs”. The committee will comprise advertisers, holding companies and agency networks among others. Some of the names onboard are Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer of Procter & Gamble, Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer of Unilever, and Fernando Machado, head of brand marketing at Burger King. More names will be added soon.

While Cannes Lions is geared up for a newer kind of challenge, it does not take away from the fact that India is coming home with 40 Lions — the best year yet for India at Cannes Lions. We will have a very comprehensive coverage in the next issue on India winners.