The decision to cancel this year’s Cannes Lions was forced when the major holding companies and leading agencies, including WPP, Omnicom, and perennial Cannes winner Wieden+Kennedy, announced they were forgoing award show entry fees and travel for the remainder of the year.
Parent company Ascential saw the signs of low turnout, few glittery after parties, and an overall subdued atmosphere to make what they call a “difficult decision.”
Now there is an emerging group of independent shops that say this cancellation presents an opportunity to reimagine the entire award process, not just for Cannes, but across the entire industry.
“Unfortunately, in our industry many events and publications pander to the holding companies and forget there is a larger world of agencies and other partners to support,” says one independent agency founder. “In order to create more sustainable events in the future [organizers] need to diversify their coverage and support beyond the few.”
Advertising has made progress on diversity, particularly in recognizing the work of smaller and independent agencies and brands, but “we have a long way to go,” states another executive.
This mindset is further echoed across smaller agency leaders who believe that industry event organizers cater primarily to the biggest spenders. These leaders understand money talks, but perhaps this moment in time can be a starting point for addressing what they see as festival inequalities.
Smaller agency executives note that they were not queried about the move to cancel Cannes. They complain that they receive less-desirable speaking slots at the festival, and few find themselves sitting on juries.
“Cannes is such a great event for so many reasons” says one, but the cancellation announcement illustrates Ascential’s primary focus.
Instead, they recommend Cannes organizers leverage this time to strategize on a more inclusive festival that celebrates all of the innovative global work and the creatives behind it.