Delegate Speak: Cannes Lions newer version is more focussed

Regulars at the five-day festival felt the turnout was almost 30-40 per cent less compared to previous years; the absence of Publicis Groupe was well noticed

by Naziya Alvi Rahman
Published - Jun 25, 2018 8:59 AM Updated: Jun 25, 2018 8:59 AM

A lot has changed about Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this year. The event was reduced to five days with new awards and subcategories introduced. Participation for entries was restricted to a maximum of six Lions. A revised points system aiming to reward creativity along with larger rewards for winning the Creative Effectiveness and Titanium Grand Prix was brought in. Charity and NGO work were separated from brand-led communication over a two-year ‘transitional’ period. The regulars felt that the turnout this year was almost 30-40 per cent less than previous years. And the absence of Publicis Groupe also contributed to the decrease in footfall.

Commenting on the new improved festival, Jose Papa, Managing Director, Cannes Lions said, “The changes we have made are a new phase for the Festival and we’re excited to focus on creativity at the heart of everything we do. Just as the industry has to innovate, so does the Festival, and it has to make changes that the industry wants. The new structure is a big change to how we present and think about the Lions but it was important to do it if the Festival is to remain relevant. The new tracks are a way of organising the awards and the festival to reflect the ways agencies and marketers approach their day-to-day work.”

So as the sun officially set on the 65th Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, we spoke to some of the delegates and participants on their views of the newer version of the festival.

Sir Martin Sorrell, Executive Chairman, S4 Capital
With all due respect to the people here and to Cannes, may not be the best place for the industry to be seen and heard given the challenges and the opportunities you referred to. I know the organisers are continuously thinking about where the best place is to be and what the best timing is. The industry is facing a lot of challenges and there are big opportunities, as I’m trying to point out. The glass is half full, not half empty, and I think the point is well made. I do think we have to re-examine how we do this, attendance is down by 25 per cent this year and one person said to me that creative attendance here is down even more sharply, and if that is true, that’s even more regrettable. But there is a place for awards with clients and without clients. Our clients are always very proud of our awards and our people are proud of our awards and I think it is something that must be maintained. Whether this is the right place and the right time is another question. I have some sympathy with the backgrounds of the question. I think we can achieve the same pride but in a different way.

Prasoon Joshi, Chairman McCann Worldgroup, Asia Pacific
I think it was necessary to reduce the days. It should become tighter and define very clearly what it stands for. I’m a purist, you cannot want to be everything for everyone. Now there’s more interaction and cohesiveness.

Mike Cooper, Global CEO, PHD
I like it a lot and I hope it continues. I like the fact that it is a bit smaller and less crowded. I think everything feels a bit more accessible. I think it’s healthy that Cannes Lions is re-focussing on the most important thing, which is being a festival of creativity. That’s why people are here. Because it is a festival of creativity, there are agencies, then the clients and the media owners also started coming. A couple of years ago I felt like questioning what it was. Is it a festival of creativity? Or a festival of technology, or consultancy? Is it like a version of CES? I think it’s good that it has been re-focussed and it feels a lot better and it is a much stronger event because of that. It felt as if it had over expanded a bit in the past. Everybody needs to remember is that it is agencies that produce the product; they are the ones that build transformational, innovative solutions for clients. That’s what is important, and Cannes Lions is about celebrating that innovation and creativity. Anything that gets us back to that place is a good thing.

Stuart Bowden, Global Chief Strategy Officer, Wavemaker
I think it is good that it’s a little bit more down-beat this year. I think with the changes inside the industry and inside WPP, it feels less pressured. People are doing more real work. I certainly get the sense that people are having more business meetings and there is less emphasis on social networking, and I do feel like people are getting more value from it this year.

Jennifer Risi, ‎Worldwide Chief Communications Officer & Managing Director, Ogilvy Media Influence - ‎Ogilvy
I come from a PR background, where there is always less money than in advertising, so I believe smaller is sometimes better. I think it is about the clients, the work and our people. Although this still doesn’t seem small, it does feel smaller than it was in the past. I think it’s good, you don’t need that level of excess, because we don’t live in that world anymore. Ogilvy has had more events with our clients, such as yesterday with our Chief Creative Officer and the CMO of SCJ with Forbes. Our CEO, John Seifert had a meeting with our clients at IBM, Philips and Unilever. We’ve also had a meeting about our diversity agenda. We are doing more to add substance to benefit the business and to let our people see that they can learn and grow here. Having a party on the beach is nice, but I would take what we are doing substantively with our clients over anything else we would do.

Simon Brockman, Head of Global Brands & Agencies - Asia Pacific, Twitter
Yes the number of people participating in the festival has come down. Publicis Groupe obviously is not there. A lot of agencies have reduced the number of people they have sent to the festival. It is expensive. This is also one of the challenges that agencies face. Making money is also one of the primary responsibilities of businesses.
But if you ask about us, this is our best year. And the reason for this is that a lot of exciting things are happening for us - we are growing and we are profitable.

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