A Different Cannes Lions Festival This Year

The Cannes Lions Festival has wrapped — and what have we learned?

Two lessons come immediately to mind. Perhaps the most important: A holding company can take a “pause” at Cannes and still win big — if the work its agencies do is deemed award worthy.

That’s what happened to Publicis Groupe.

As you no doubt recall, the holding company had a vastly reduced presence at this year’s Festival, citing a need to fund its new internal Marcel program.

Usually, holding companies spend tens of thousands of dollars (maybe more) submitting entries for their work at Cannes. This Year, Publicis opted out of the awards competition.



But some of the work was so good that clients and other partners stepped up and paid the freight, for nearly 400 entries.

As our correspondent on the ground, Larissa Faw reported, those investments paid off. Publicis agencies ended up winning multiple Grand Prix, a Titanium and additional recognition.

Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun was ecstatic, while stressing that next year the company will resume its normal investment in entry submissions. 

But that raises a big question: Why should the holding company bare all the costs of submitting entries? It took Publicis Groupe’s “pause” to remind us all that other players have a stake in winning, not the least of which are clients and well, pretty much any other entity (production companies, other agencies, among others) listed on the submission form. Why shouldn’t those entry costs be born equally? 

The answer is that those costs should be born equally. Everybody these days is being squeezed, economically speaking, in one way or another. So if the recognition is going to be shared, so should the cost of trying to gain that recognition.

Another lesson, which we kinda already new: When surveyed, people often don’t give truthful answers. That happened to the Cannes organizers this year who talked to a lot of people in the lead-up to this year’s Festival and thought they discovered that many in the industry believed all the celebrity hoopla detracted from the mission of the Festival — recognizing good work.

Wrong! Come Festival time, what were people bellyaching about? Where are all the celebrities?(!!). Come on, any festival of this caliber should be — partly anyway — a Glam Fest. Let’s be real. The industry relies a lot on well-known faces to help it hawk products. Why the heck would you want to exclude such people from the event? Answer: You really don’t.

There are still a bunch of sessions at the Festival that have very little to do about advertising. To a degree — and I’m not sure where the line is — that’s fine, as long as the sessions are thought provoking, have takeaways for the industry and aren’t just promotional hype for a sponsoring agency, client or media company.

This year’s session about Miss America comes to mind. It had nothing to do about the business of advertising, but everything to do with one of the industry’s challenges — gender equality and the perception of women in society. The MA organization is now led by a former Miss America, Gretchen Carlson. She’s trying to make it less of an ogle-fest and more about the intelligence of young women. That aligns well with adland’s mission of adding smart women to its executive ranks.

That’s thought-provoking.


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