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Cannes Lions 2017: advertising industry on show at creativity festival


In June 17, more than 15,000 people will descend on the French coastal town of Cannes. Their destination, the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès convention center. For seven days the modernist building will play host to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the largest celebration of the great and the good of the advertising world.

The festival, which is now in its 63nd year, began as a response to the Cannes Film Festival. Back in 1954, representatives from the Screen Advertising World Association felt that their cinematic adverts should receive equal recognition as the films they preceded. They created the International Advertising Film Festival, which later became the week-long Cannes Lions.

The winners will be honored at awards ceremonies during the eight-day fest in Cannes from June 17-24. A total of 390 industry leaders from 50 countries across as juries are confirmed, and 43% of jurors this year are women — a record high for Cannes Lions. Until 2014, just one in five judges were women, and there were only one or two female jury presidents each year.

Among the highlights of the year, Chinese tech titans Tencent and Alibaba are putting on big activations and sponsorships. Tencent also built a platform that allows people to buy their festival passes in China through WeChat. At the same time, a big presence of consultancies is expected such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young.
Cannes Lions and Accenture Interactive also joined forces to launch Connected Creativity, a platform that combines digital and real-world networking to help you match, meet and share what you know with others. As part of the platform, networking tool Braindating lets you connect with like-minded people and book one-to-one sessions based on shared passions and knowledge, regardless of your career level.

While Cannes has never completely eradicated a category, it has culled subcategories for this year. In fact, Philip Thomas, CEO of Cannes Lions parent Ascential Events, said the festival “cut about 100”. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean it’ll never get rid of a category. “We’d love to kill a Lion because it’d be quite bold and it’d be interesting to say this is where the future is going,” he said.

The weeklong program for this year is centered on TED-like talks about the future of the media business, convergence of “content” and the increasingly blurred lines between entertainment and advertising. The star-studded lineup includes guests as diverse as Laura Dern, Kelly Clarkson, Helen Mirren, Ian McKellan, Jason Reitman and A$AP Rocky, as well as executives including Sky Atlantic director Zai Bennett and Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins.
This year’s festival comes at a particularly difficult time for advertisers. Ahead of the festival, agencies have been looking to trim costs, from hiring to spending on Cannes, as the ad business runs into headwinds. The belt-tightening comes as most ad holding companies are facing political and economic uncertainties, soft first-quarter earnings results and spending cuts by their clients.

In that context, Cannes is a logical cost-cutting target. The festival can cost large agencies US$8,000 to US$20,000 per person, including festival passes, housing and expenses, as well as up to US$3 million to submit campaigns to be considered for awards. That doesn’t include the cost of throwing a party or event.

PH: Creative Commons