Ascential, the parent company of Cannes Lions, reports decline in total revenue

The company’s overall organic growth was up 6.3% Y-oY & 3.8% when adjusted for EBITDA but marketing saw a $12mn decline in organic revenue growth, with Cannes down 8% & MediaLink down 9%

Cannes Lions

Ascential, parent company of the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity and omnipresent consulting firm MediaLink, reported decline in total revenue produced by its marketing division in the full year results for 2018, including both of those organisations. 

In November 2017, Ascential revealed that they had plans to do ‘major Cannes overhaul’ after pressure from major agency holding companies demanded a shorter, streamlined and cost-effective event.

Publicis Groupe had announced at the very beginning of the 2017 festival that it would forbid its agencies from submitting work to any awards shows for the following year so it could focus on developing the AI-powered internal platform Marcel. 

“We’ve been clear that our marketing segment faced a more challenging 2018 in a tough market. However we are pleased to see that Cannes Lions’ reset and awards restructure went down well with customers, resulting in its highest ever NPS (net promoter) score,” said Duncan Painter, CEO, Ascential.

The company’s overall organic growth was up 6.3 per cent year over year and 3.8 per cent when adjusted for EBITDA. But marketing saw a $12 million decline in organic revenue growth, with Cannes down 8 per cent and MediaLink down 9 per cent from the previous year.

Part of this trend may be attributed to the fact that last year’s Cannes Lions attendance and submission rates declined by an estimated 20-25 per cent, according to sources.

“Last year we made significant changes to the festival to ensure that we continue to provide the creative benchmark for the industry we serve. We knew that those changes, such as streamlining the awards categories, could reduce revenue in the short term, and it is this that we see reflected in the results this year. However, we can also see in these results how an increase in recurring revenues at Cannes Lions—from our digital and consulting products and services—went some way to offset that in H2,” said Painter.

“And, of course, we look forward to welcoming Publicis back to the festival this year,” he added.

Ascential’s full results also noted several other moves on the marketing side of the business, like the acquisitions of industry intelligence group WARC and Amazon consulting firm Flywheel Digital, the introduction of Cannes digital archive The Work, and a “greater focus on brands” among MediaLink’s client roster.

When comparing 2017 Proforma EBITDA results to last year’s the report notes that many of these recent acquisitions “have had lower margins than Ascential’s average,” which may have played a role in determining these numbers.

The Ascential network’s largest source of revenue is sales, which includes Flywheel as well as ecommerce service Edge by Ascential and financial technology brand Money 20/20. Marketing ranks a close second.

Said Painter, “We are absolutely focused on getting the marketing segment back to growth this year. We are pleased that MediaLink is making good progress towards refocusing on its brand customers. As well as solid delivery of core products and services, new initiatives such as CLX, the new summit run by Cannes Lions and MediaLink, designed around immersive and interactive experiences with some of the world’s most exciting media and entertainment creators, are key to making that happen.”

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