Publicis Groupe is making its return to the Cannes Festival of Creativity next week after taking a "pause" year in 2018 that was mandated by CEO Arthur Sadoun, ostensibly so the holding company could focus its resources on the new technology platform Marcel.
The gap year inspired a rethink that has resulted in the Groupe's embrace of a new approach to the festival.
For one, Publicis is curating entries "in partnership" with clients to shift away from simply "racing for medals."
"We implemented selective award strategy inspired by last year’s experience with our clients," says Carla Serrano, chief strategy officer, Publicis Groupe. Now, the Groupe is focusing on visible work for key clients, like 2018’s Grand Prix and 2019’s Grand Effie for P&G’s Tide campaigns. Although the number of total submissions this year is on par with 2018, there are 50% fewer entries than 2017.
Keep in mind, last year's entries were entirely self-funded by clients. This streamlining is rooted in the Groupe's broader Cannes mission to "stand for creativity first," says Serrano. "Creatives are choosing the best work possible" instead of "one-offs" almost written entirely for Cannes nominations, she explains.
The new approach also aims "to be a positive force for modern creativity," says Serrano, noting two thirds of the Groupe's 313 attendees are creatives. Local regional leads selected deserving employees, adding there was no "command and control" from European top leaders to dictate specific qualifications. “Our definition of diversity encompasses everything from gender, age and race/ethnicity to creative discipline and how they approach work,” she says.
This heightened attention to all things creative means Global Chief Creative Officer Nick Law will serve as the Groupe’s "face" for the Festival. Sadoun is keeping a low profile in favor of client meetings.
Executive Chairman Maurice Lévy will attend for one day, Friday, and the Groupe is bypassing its traditional Majestic Hotel-hosted events in favor of co-sponsoring or attending events thrown by partners. Publicis Groupe will however continue to have a strong presence, including having Groupe leaders on stage as part of 12 official Cannes sessions, 35 leaders dedicating their time as Cannes jurors and Law serving as the Chair of the Cannes Lions school.
The Groupe will also have a lot of new faces wearing badges. One in four of the Groupe's delegates are first-time attendees with 17 participating in Young Lion competitions and three attending the Young Lions Media Academy.