‘Fearless Girl’ or one of the other big award winners at this year’s Cannes Festival of Creativity should have been the big story coming out of the gathering. Or maybe some award-related scandal like a scam-ad winning multiple Grand Prix or an award-laden entry not being entirely, uh, original shall we say.
Instead, Publicis Groupe’s decision—announced mid-show—to pull out next year, was the story that had all tongues wagging.
And rightly so. It was a shocker.
Even more shocking was Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun’s feigned surprise at the reaction. He told Ad Age in an interview published today that he was “very surprised” at all the blowback. That’s almost as hard to believe as the decision itself and whether the company will actually go through with it. Which is highly unlikely.
Apparently the decision took a lot of Publicis higher ups by surprise. Ad Age reported that Sadoun was doing his best to sell the idea to 200 (!) of the company’s top creative talent in Cannes at a hastily arranged meeting Thursday.
When the decision was first revealed, the reasoning seemed to be all about allocation of resources, the priority being the holding company’s newly announced AI platform Marcel, at the expense of award shows and other frivolous industry activities and events generally falling into the bucket labeled “Promotion.”
With one big exception of course—the Viva Technology event co-founded by Publicis Groupe in 2015, which, like Cannes also happens to be held in June but in Paris.
But given the blowback to its Cannes retreat, it seems Publicis felt a need to pile on the justification. And now it turns out to be about much more than mere resource allocation.
Cannes has become a damn carnival! A circus act! Sadoun referenced a Snap-branded Ferris Wheel at this year’s Festival, which he told Ad Age symbolized that the holding companies “have lost their thought leadership in Cannes.”
Arthur, where the heck have you been? Cannes has always been and always will be part Carnival Act. It’s part and parcel of any creative endeavor. It has to be entertaining, engaging and fun.
But first and foremost, Cannes is about awards for great work, or at least what is deemed to be great work by distinguished juries of industry peers. Creatives live for recognition. That’s how they get ahead in their chosen field and there’s no greater recognition of great work than a Cannes Lions. Mr. Sadoun, you basically just decided that doesn’t really matter.
And thought leadership? How does a branded Ferris wheel detract from that or symbolize anything, except an interesting branding idea. For most people at the show I don’t think Snap’s presence in any form will diminish whatever inspiration they derive from session takeaways.
But hey, like you told Ad Age, your job now is to transform the company and to do that you need to make bold decisions. Now you just have to figure out how to placate the thousands of creatives who probably feel like their mission at Publicis is a little less important than they thought it was a few days ago.