With the Coronavirus spreading rapidly the ad industry is pondering the fate of its biggest and most prestigious annual awards event, the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.
As perennial festival attendee and industry luminary Sir Martin Sorrell succinctly put it, “It’s at risk.”
In a bid to help contain the virus, France has banned indoor gatherings of more than 5,000 people and Cannes organizers are said to be scrambling to draw up an action plan.
For now, the event is still on and organizers say with nearly four months until the festival is scheduled to start it’s far too early to be making a final go or no-go decision.
While organizers say plans are proceeding apace, a Coronavirus notice has been added at the top of the Cannes Lions home page which reads: “Cannes Lions will take place as scheduled on 22-26 June in Cannes, France. Our thoughts are with all those affected by COVID-19 around the world. Our priority at this time is the safety of our delegates and teams – we continue to closely monitor the development of the COVID-19/Coronavirus and any potential impact on our event. We are following guidance from the venue, the World Health Organisation and the French authorities.”
Sources tell MediaPost there is chaos behind the scenes as festival organizers scramble to figure out strategies moving forward. No one wants to risk hosting an event with no attendees or high-level speakers. Or have anyone get sick.
For now, the major holding companies have made no final decisions about attending this year’s festival. Paris-based Publicis Groupe, for example, confirms its plans remain in place for now and a rep there noted that some canceled events due to the 5000-plus ban have been rescheduled for June.
Other holding groups say they’re monitoring the situation closely.