'The jury is out' on WPP Cannes Lions return says CEO Martin Sorrell as rival Publicis Groupe withdraws in 2018

WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell (far left) speaking at an FT-hosted event at Cannes Lions 2017

Sir Martin Sorrell has stated that "the jury is out" when it comes to whether or not WPP will stick by Cannes Lions following the decision of rival Publicis Groupe to cease spend next year.

At an event hosted by the Financial Times held today (June 21), Sorrell admitted that he had been considering WPP’s involvement at the annual festival of creativity (as had been previously rumored) which he said had become "too bold and too brash" over the years.

He highlighted how the client desire to do more for less money, didn't resonate with the event which has grown in expense. He also queried whether clients would welcome the Publicis Groupe decision to withdraw from the 2018 proceedings but welcomed it if it provoked a review by the festival organizers too.

Sorrell then went on to explain how there are 500 people from WPP at Cannes this year, instead of up to 1,000 people in previous years, and that the number of entries to the festival’s prestigious awards has been “cut down slightly” too.

“There is gouging that goes on and there is peak time pricing. Cannes in June is not the cheapest place in the world to be," he continued, additionally noting that he favoured a similar event taking place somewhere "more accessible" like New York, London or Paris. Although he did add: "Given some of the things that are going on at the moment, I think it is inappropriate"

Sorrell then went on to label the event “too much of a money making exercise”, and added that he felt it had lost its essence of celebrating creativity as it was originally founded.

Of Facebook he went on to note that it was not a traditional technology company, and spoke of his thoughts on its role in brand safety efforts, and despite noting that “they do far more than people know”, he also said that there "is more to be done".

He added: “They are responsible for the content that they distribute. They can't walk away from that!"

Of Vivendi and Havas merging, he said: “If you put continuous pressure on the media side of the business - agencies are making promises in pitches that they can't possibly sustain. They are making some form or guarantee, if the clients are to be believed, which is unsustainable. Buying media is not like buying strawberries and sugar - the variables move... the pressure is so intense that what you are seeing is the development of a new model."

Earlier this month, Publicis' Maurice Levy explained why he didn't buy Cannes Lions, a festival which has become 'too dominated by tech'

For more news from Cannes Lions follow the dedicated news stream on The Drum website

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