Cannes Lions simplifies awards structure and Publicis returns
- After facing withering criticism from the major ad agency holding companies Ascential, owner of the Cannes Lions festival, announced major changes for the event next year including reduced costs, a simplification of the award structure and an overall more modern event per Adweek.
- The yearly celebration of advertising initially came under fire when Publicis announced it wasn’t attending next year’s event, although the announcement was part of a larger company-wide ban on attending any awards or trade shows for a year. According to Adweek, Publicis has announced it will be attending the 2019 Cannes Lions.
- Some key changes for the 2018 event include: shorting the event's duration from eight days to five, reducing the cost of complete delegate passes and retiring awards categories Cyber, Integrated and Promo & Activation. Additionally, five new Lions catergories are being added and more than 120 award subcategories are being removed, the point system is being revamped, and Lions Entertainment and Lions Innovation will be integrated into the main festival.
While Publicis is the only holding company that flatly stated it would stay away for the 2018 Cannes Lions, it wasn’t alone in criticizing the event. WPP CEO Martin Sorrell complained about the event’s shortcomings and high cost and even took note that New York City, London or Paris would all be more convenient locations for the multi-day festival. In WPP’s most recent earnings call, Sorrell called out Ascential for “unacceptable practice” for some of its policies around Cannes Lions.
Ascential launched an advisory committee in June to shape the future of the event, and the recently announced changes likely stemmed from the findings of that group. The news that Publicis has agreed to return to the show for 2019 suggests the changes have met with industry approval.
Despite the changes, however, there are ongoing questions regarding the overall importance of Cannes Lions to the industry. Recent research from video advertising measurement company Ace Metrix found that ads that win Cannes Lions awards might be striking — such as scoring high for being polarizing — but might not be ads that best meet business objectives. The study found branded ads reduced the chance of winning an award at the event. Then again, Cannes Lions has traditionally been a celebration of the creativity in advertising more than anything else.