Cannes Lions: Will COVID-19 hamper the Festival's charm & cheer?

Some observers say even the October schedule looks ambitious & even if it does take place, there will be a visible impact on the participation. But few are also hopeful the festival will bounce back

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Mar 30, 2020 12:41 PM
Cannes Lions 2020

The ongoing coronavirus crisis has affected industries across the globe and has forced most industry events to be pushed back. One of the biggest in this list would be the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, scheduled for June but now will take place in October. The big question now is - will this impact the nature of the festival or its participation?

exchange4media took this query to several frequent Cannes attendees from the Indian adland. We spoke to them on the festival’s decision to create a contingency plan for October, the impact the shift by four months could have, the threat of the pandemic on the nature of the festival, ad industry business dynamics and more. 

While some industry observers hinted that given the current situation even the October schedule looks ambitious, others suggested that participation in the festival and the number of delegates attending the event will have a visible impact.   

Read on to find out what our admen had to say:

Rohit Ohri, Group Chairman & CEO, FCB India

The key challenge is we don’t know what the entry deadline is. Hypothetically, can you imagine having a Cannes in October then again in June? We’ll have a big problem in 2021. I have a feeling that entries might close in May and they might do the judging in October. The impact will be felt by the Cannes committee and not as much by the Indian or global ad industry.

Ajay Gahlaut, MD and CCO, Publicis India

As of now, there is too much uncertainty because of the COVID-19 threat. One doesn’t know how long the lockdown will last and when will the world emerge from the crisis in its entirety. 

As far as the Cannes Lions Festival is concerned, I’m sure this pandemic will have some effect. While the enthusiasm to participate should be there, I’m not sure how many agencies will want to spend on the awards after taking a hit to their bottom lines. This year might see a lot of agencies staying away from the show. People, too, will be wary of travelling so soon after the crisis. I think it will take a while before the world recovers from this unprecedented epidemic and returns to business as usual.

Tarun Rai, Chairman and Group CEO, Wunderman Thompson, South Asia

There are too many pressing issues as we step into a new week of the lockdown. There are also too many questions regarding the virus. Europe has crossed the 3,00,000 mark in Covid-19 cases. The US has crossed 1,00,000! When will this end? What is going to happen to other parts of the world, including India?

 I personally think Cannes Lions, like the Japan Olympics, should be postponed by a year. Even if we conquer the virus quickly, I believe the money that gets spent on the award entries, registration and travel to Cannes, can be better deployed. Unless, of course, the Cannes Festival decides on a different format. An on-line Awards Show. Then we may consider it, once again.


The coronavirus pandemic qualifies as a ‘force majeure’ and therefore has to be dealt with by all concerned. It will be a blow to the many teams that have been preparing their entries and cases, but I guess everyone can live with this delay. I believe agencies and clients have more things to worry about given the open-endedness of this pandemic and would be more than glad not to be distracted from the task of steadying their various ships. I am not aware if they have extended entry dates and if yes then one can hope to see some interesting COVID-19 related interventions.

 But all said, I think everyone will bounce back and celebrate this year's Cannes with more gusto, provided we see the back of this pandemic by then. 

Sumanto Chattopadhyay, Chairman and CCO, 82.5 Communications


It has seemed obvious for a while that such festivals would get postponed if not cancelled. 

Those agencies which registered or sent entries early, before the gravity of the situation became apparent, will naturally be distressed if they do not get a refund. 82.5 was following a wait-and-watch policy, so we have not sent entries or registered delegates. I think Cannes Lions should give at least a partial refund, if possible. But, if the fine print covers them in such black swan events, then they are legally not bound to. I think the world is being forced to adjust rapidly to this 'new normal', so we will only know once the dust settles - what shape or form Cannes Lions will take in the future.

Rajdeepak Das, MD & Chief Creative Officer, Leo Burnett, South Asia


Firstly, I think Cannes is an annual ritual that every adlander looks forward to. The festival getting postponed due to COVID-19, although necessary, is disappointing too and the change of dates will surely have some repercussions. However, this is an unprecedented time in our lives and as partners to brands we are all learning everyday how to best handle this crisis. But it is more important now than ever for the industry to step up and use the power of creativity to make a positive and impactful difference. Cannes being one of the industry’s biggest knowledge sharing platform will give us a chance to review, learn and understand how everyone pulled through these trying times, making the event even more important this year.

Narayan Devanathan, Group Executive & Strategy Officer, Dentsu Aegis Network, South Asia


We just heard from the IOC and the government of Japan that for the first time in its 124-year history, the Summer Olympics has been postponed by a year. And this is the optimistic scenario. Now see the postponement of the Cannes Lions Festival in that context. The silver lining here is that the Cannes Lions is only being postponed. Will that hamper participation? I think, as with many, many aspects of our lives, this crisis is making us ask fundamental questions about ourselves. What is really important? And can we count advertising festivals among them? My answer, actually, is yes. Once we come out of this crisis, we’ll have a significant global downturn to deal with, plenty of austerity measures, cuts to advertising spending across the board. You know what might actually help then? Trivial as it may seem in that context, a festival of creativity can be a good reminder to look up from the trenches and reach out again to what we’re capable of when we explore the power of ideas.

Satbir Singh, Founder & Chief Creative Officer, Thinkstr

Seeing how the pandemic is developing, the worst is clearly not over in Europe with the situation in Spain and Italy continuing to be grave. Add to that, the situation in the US is deteriorating fast as well. We are hoping our 21-day lockdown will arrest the slide in India. In view of all this, I believe even October looks very ambitious at the moment. The world will take a while to gain momentum, not just economically but emotionally as well. I’d think participation, both in terms of entries and delegates, will be lower than average if the festival does happen in October.

Subhash Kamath, CEO & Managing Partner, BBH


At this stage, there’s no way knowing when this pandemic will be behind us. So I’m not even sure if the Cannes Festival will happen in October. It’s honestly not a priority right now. People’s safety and trying to manage work from home is all one is focused on. Award shows will come later, whether in 2020 or the next year.

Pratik Hatankar, Head - Innovations & New Initiatives, Tonic Worldwide

A 4-month shift for Cannes Lions will surely change things. Advertising is a very versatile industry, so I have no doubt that it will adapt to the weather. Cannes is all about celebrating creativity. There will be many agencies and brands looking forward to discussing and awarding creative work in the new world context. I believe Cannes 2020 being delayed will not hamper its footfalls and entries in 2021.

Read more news about (internet advertising India, internet advertising, advertising India, digital advertising India, media advertising India)

For more updates, be socially connected with us on
Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube