This week Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity and their parent company Ascential announced a slew of changes
that they hope will prove to the industry that the show is still King of the Jungle when it comes to advertising industry awards. The changes, which include ditching 120 sub categories, reducing the length of the festival from eight days to five, retiring the Cyber, Integrated and Promo & Activation Lions and making more festival content freely accessible online, have been met with largely positive responses.
Publicis Groupe, which caused controversy at Cannes 2017 by announcing that it was taking an awards hiatus for a year, released a statement saluting the changes and re-confirming its participation in 2019. Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun lauded the festival’s decision to “re-centre the Cannes Lions’ focus around creativity” as “commendable
But what do the changes really mean for those intending to enter into the 2018 competition and attend?
One of the key factors of the new award structure is a cap on entries per piece of work. Organisers hope this will prevent agencies flooding the awards and skewing rankings or creating the situation where one campaign ends up bringing home a bloated number of trophies.
To clarify, the cap means that one piece of work can only be entered into a maximum of six Lion categories. That means that the partner companies involved – say media agency, creative agency, digital agency, production company – will have to hammer out who gets to enter what, where.
Director of Awards for Cannes Lions, Simon Cook, thinks that this shouldn’t represent too much of a mindset shift as partners often hold these sorts of discussions already. “The various partners already work very closely together to make these decisions,” he explains. “This will continue to happen and we will assist wherever we can - but it is ultimately up to each entrant to work closely with the various players in advance of the festival on this.”
As for what counts as a ‘piece of work’ Simon has further details. “A piece of work in this context is the element entered into the Lion. For instance, within a large brand campaign, there may be a poster entered into Outdoor, while the TV spot for the same campaign is entered into Film. This would count as two separate entries. However without a cap, it would be possible for people to theoretically submit a social media campaign into PR, Media, Brand Experience & Activation, Creative Strategy, Industry Craft, Social & Influencer, Entertainment, Direct Lions, Mobile and Titanium, etc.”
Another structural element worth knowing about is an altered ranking system, which puts a far greater weighting on Grand Prix and Gold Lions. That means that Agency of the Year or Network of the Year rankings will be less skewed to those who sweep up in the shortlists and will, instead, show greater favour to those that win the top awards, and are therefore doing the truly creative work.
Cannes Lions is also re-organising how the awards are organised, grouping awards around nine pillars: Reach, Comms, Craft, Experience, Innovation, Impact, Good, Entertainment, and Health. They have also introduced three new Lions, which they hope reflect the changing nature of the industry: Social & Influencer Lion, Industry Craft Lion and Creative eCommerce Lion.
These pillars will be reflected in the content structure, says Ascential Events CEO and former Cannes Lions CEO Philip Thomas. “For the first time, in 2018, anyone can apply to speak at Cannes. Anyone, anywhere, from any kind of background in the creative ecosystem. As ever, of course we will only showcase the very best - the successful proposals will be organised into a content and experience programme that follows the same structure as the awards.”
The team also hopes to make this content more accessible, both by streaming the shows, winning work and talks online and in Cannes, and by providing a number of free Young Lions delegates passes. “To reward the companies that create and enter work, we will give a free Young Lions delegate pass to any office that entered 15 entries or more in 2017. This scheme will be repeated every year. This means we’re giving the industry more than 650 free Young Lions delegate passes. I really do believe personally that this is absolutely brilliant,” explains festival MD Jose Papa.
Of the dominance of tech platforms at Cannes and the much-grumbled-about loss of focus on creativity, Philip Thomas says that’s something the organisers have recognised and are taking efforts to change. ““We as the organisers, what we control are the things that are inside the Palais and the immediate environments of the Palais. All of that is purely about creativity, the award shows, the work, the speeches and all of that stuff. What’s happened in the last five to ten years is that clearly the conversations have to become much richer than that with many more different partners involved. If you mean by tech platforms people like Google, Facebook, etc., I think the idea of having a festival of creativity that’s about advertising, marketing and communications that’s about those players in it - I don’t think anybody particularly wants that. They want them to be there. They want them to show up in a creative way though, they want them to be much more part of the festival. So we’re discussing with Facebook, with Google and with others about how we can integrate them more in the festival itself.”
For now, there are no plans to replicate the restructured awards architecture in the Lions’ regional festivals, Eurobest, Dubai Lynx and Spikes Asia – though the team is still very much in listening mode, explains Simon Cook.
“We don’t have any immediate plans. The size of the regional festivals and the volume of work entered means there’s less pressing need to overhaul the architecture,” says Simon. “We will continue to consult with the local audiences for each event and introduce any innovations if and when the time is right.”
But the question that we’re sure is on the tip of your tongue – what about the LBB & Friends Beach? The launch press conference on Monday evening ended with a kind nod from Philip Thomas. “Are you allowed to have your beach in Cannes next year? Yes you are! We’re not going to take that away!”
So we look forward to seeing you all in June 2018!