Cannes Lions launches committee to help shape festival's future amid criticism from WPP and Publicis

P&G's Marc Pritchard has said it is 'the right time to step back' and look at the best way forward

Amid pullbacks from some of the ad industry's biggest names, Cannes Lions has announced the creation of an advisory committee to "help shape the future of the festival".

This year the event has faced criticism from WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell, while Publicis Groupe said it would refrain from entering the awards in 2018, instead opting to invest in its own AI platform, Marcel. Accordingly, shares in Cannes Lions owner, Ascential, fell on Wednesday (June 21) with its stock price falling by more than 3% following comments from the ad industry's major holding groups.

In a timely announcement dated today (June 23) Cannes Lions organisers said the new advisory committee will include representation from major advertisers, partners, agency networks and the Mayor of Cannes.

Taking a seat at the table will be Protcer & Gamble's (P&G) brand chief Marc Marc Pritchard and Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer at Unilever, with the former conceding: "It's the right time to step back and take a look at the best way forward for Cannes Lions to provide the best possible platform for creativity in our industry, and P&G is ready and willing to help."

Other brand marketers from Burger Kind, AT&T, Heineken will also be involved in discussions.

Cannes Lions said the group will be a platform for stakeholders in the event to share their views and recommendations around all aspects of the festival experience.

“As well as clients who have offered to help shape the future of the Festival, we will – as usual – consult with all global creative leaders, heads of holding companies and other major partners,” said Philip Thomas, chief executive of Ascential Events.

“There have been a lot of discussions this week about the structure of the Festival, and we want to create the right Cannes Lions experience for all participants. The thing that unites them all is their belief in creativity as a powerful force in the world, and this is at the heart of everything we do.”

Speaking to The Drum over the disquiet earlier in the week, Jose Papa, Cannes Lions, managing director, said he felt "there are a lot of misconceptions about the expense" of attending the week-long festival.

Commenting on the debate, Stephen Lepitak, The Drum's editor and long-time Cannes Lions attendee, said that the public comments of WPP chief Sir Martin were a classic example of a buyer applying downward pressure on a supplier's pricing. This plus the likely ongoing support of the industry's other major holding groups (even if they were to cut down on numbers) would likely assure the festival's longevity.

He added: "Where the organizers are secure though is that this year the consultancies such as McKinsey, Deloitte, Accenture, IBM, and tech companies like Microsoft, Google, Snapchat, Spotify, Twitter and Facebook are all present and highly visible now too."

The full list of advisory members will be unveiled soon, after which the committee's recommendations will be shared with the global creative community.

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Rebecca Stewart

Rebecca Stewart is a reporter at The Drum. Based in London, she writes news, analysis and features around brand marketing and digital innovation. She has interviewed key figures from the likes of Airbnb, Amnesty International, Unilever, Facebook and Spotify, as well as covering international events like Ad Week Europe, Dmexco and Ciclope.

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