Cannes Lions revenue up despite agency exodus as tech and media fills the gap

Snapchat's Cannes placement

The revenue generated by the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity rose 7% to £62.9m in 2017 despite “slightly reduced volumes of award entries and delegates” according to owner Ascential in its half-year report today (24 July).

The “reduced participation by certain major agency customers” at the festival was offset by the involvement of technology companies and new media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Google, it said.. The increased sale of premium packages also helped offset dwindling agency interest which poses an existential threat to the event in 2018.

Revenue was split between delegate passes (42%), award entries (41%) and partnership/digital (15%) in addition to hotel room booking commissions (2%).

The major ad networks were vocal in their criticism of the event. WPP, the largest network attendee in 2017 brought 500 delegates, down from 1,000 in 2016. Chief executive of WPP, Sir Martin Sorrell said during this year's festival:, ‘The jury is out’ on whether it will return. He added “Cannes in June is not the cheapest place in the world to be”.

His comments followed the Publicis Groupe announcement that it will not attend any award or trade shows until after next year's festival as it looks to reroute the money into building its AI-enabled ‘professional assistant’ platform Marcel.

Publicis Groupe reportedly spent $20m at Cannes Lions, making up roughly 10% of its award entries, and a significant slice of paid delegates, reports Adage.

As a result of Publicis' planned exit and WPP's potential retreat, the company said in its half year report that it is looking to “expand its customer base across the full spectrum of the branded communications industry” as a means of combating the supposed slump. It said that its award entries were largely stable although it did admit a contraction in the print and outdoor categories.

Duncan Painter, chief executive officer of Ascential, did not mention the future of the awards or the potential withdrawal by the agency networks in the briefing, but said: “Going forward we are encouraged by the participation of major advertisers, partners, agency networks and the Mayor of Cannes in a newly formed advisory committee created to help shape the future of the festival and ensure it continues reflects opportunities and needs in the creative industry.”

Addressing issues around the pricing of the festival, Jose Papa, managing director of Cannes Lions, told The Drum: "There are lots of misconceptions about the expense of Cannes – one of the most prevalent being that we charge people to speak on stage, which we don’t; or that all the hotels are very expensive, which they’re not."

Read the full interview here.

Ascential reported a 26% jump in revenue as it sold off 13 publications to focus on its core products. It reported a turnover of £222m, up from £176.2m year-on-year.

Watch Sir Martin Sorrell discuss his views on boycotting the festival in the exclusive video below.

John McCarthy

John is an entertainment marketing reporter at The Drum. He writes about the amazing marketing stories coming from the movie, TV, music and video game industries. He's also the hunt for the weirder trends in marketing and advertising.

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