A Lighter, Tighter, More Purposeful Cannes Lions Festival

Here we go. The revamped Cannes Lions Festival has just begun. It’s shorter, more focused, lighter. But does that mean it is better? I actually think so. I know we’re only now exposed to, and experiencing first-hand, the new format but, based on my previous experiences judging it or hunting some Lions, I think the changes will prove extremely positive.


Most importantly, because this iconic Festival was created to celebrate great work — and some of the prestige that is associated with winning a Lion is directly related to scarcity. This year, as a result of fewer subcategories and a six-category entry cap, winners will shine brighter. And the scaling back of categories will also of course help us better understand the essence of each — and what it takes to win.

Secondly, the Festival content is now aligned with the award categories, against nine tracks, which allows for a smoother, more cohesive and comprehensive experience.



Finally, the deliberate separation of charity from brand aims to make the competition more fair. It’s an important step that underscores and resurfaces the true purpose of great work: to help clients grow. Further on this topic, Cannes has plans to consolidate all charity submissions into a single category. (See the interview below.)

So, prepare your rosé glasses: It feels like this year’s Cannes Lions is going to be a great experience.

But don’t take my word for it. I spoke with Jose Papa, the global manager of the Festival, to learn more about this year’s changes and what they have planned for the future.

Q: For me, Cannes is, and should always be, about the work. About celebrating the creativity that moves businesses forward. Do you feel that some of this year’s changes aim to put work back in the center of the Festival?

A: It is unfortunate there is controversy on this still. It is always about the work. Creativity that drives business, change and good. The sanctity of the Lion should be kept intact. We have now focused much more on quality than volume. The new awards structure made the criteria for entries more stringent, thus raising the bar further.

Q: Last year, after I judged the Direct Lions, we were asked to complete a survey about improvement suggestions and then discussed these suggestions with the organization team. It was a very rich discussion and one of my particular suggestions was to reduce the number of subcategories. I felt that we sometimes spent more time discussing the nuances of categories than the actual work. What impact have you seen as a result of the reduction of 120 sub-categories? And the six new Lions categories entries cap?

A: Exactly as I mentioned previously, this change allows us a chance to focus on groundbreaking work that defines culture and business transformation. And an opportunity to show that, for us, creativity is everything – it’s the true underpinning of the Lion.

Q: This year’s charity work will be judged separate from brand work. Is there a plan to create one category to consolidate all charity work in the future?

A: Yes, and this is probably a three-year journey that began now.

Q: This is your second year managing the Festival and, per our conversations last year, you are very conscious of the responsibility you carry. I, personally, have been really impressed by your ability to envision, embrace and implement change. How does it feel to be an agent of change?

A: I feel privileged and excited to join at a moment in time during which the industry is going through such seismic change. The scope of change, the industry environment, and the impact that Cannes Lions can have makes my role more purposeful and dynamic. And what’s key is that the trends, conversations and changes we’re seeing gives us, and myself, validation for evolving the way we have and will continue to.

Q: Now, the most important question. Brazil is playing Costa Rica on Friday. Will you be able to find some time to watch it? And, most importantly, are we winning the FIFA World Cup this year? Since an idea can win six different lions, why can’t a country win six different World Cup trophies?

A: I will try my best at least to keep live scores on mobile. This trophy would come in a very special moment for our country. The same way the 7x1 came on the back of much frustration with everything going on in the country, maybe this time winning will signal the beginning of a new era of prosperity for such an amazing country.

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