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Cannes Lions Marketing

Ascential hails 'positive' Cannes Lions reset, brushing off revenues and profits impact

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By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

July 23, 2018 | 4 min read

Cannes Lions organiser Ascential has reported a dip in earnings in the last six months. It has brushed this off as the cost of modernising its portfolio, implementing better e-commerce solutions and accommodating the demands of its customers.

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The events and market research company, for the six months ending 30 June, reported adjusted underlying earnings from its continuing operations of £60.4m – it was £60.8m a year earlier. Furthermore, margins were down to 32.0% from 36.8%. Ascential underlined that profits grew 2% on an underlying basis, when currency fluctuations are excluded.

The company said it had designed new products, had a strong “year of transition” on the marketing side and saw its e-commerce products improve. On its slightly reduced financial performance it pointed to the consolidation of Clavis and the launch of its Money20/20 product in Asia.

In its latest earnings call, the group branded the re-set of Cannes Lions as “positive” and said that it is “outweighing in-year impact on revenues and profits”. The group has bolstered its credentials in the marketing and advertising space with the launch of The Work and the acquisition of Warc.

This year, Cannes Lions entries were down by a fifth amid a temporary pull-out from Publicis (which was still entered en masse by clients). Network heads also asked questions around the purpose of the event, spurring it into a period of change. Cannes Lions' organisers promised to rethink the event following grumblings from the industry at last year's gathering that it had become too big and too expensive. Nonetheless, there was a 84% year on year increase in the number of brands entering the awards as a result. On paper, entries were down to 32,372 entries from 41,170 in 2017.

At the time, Philip Thomas, chief executive of Ascential Events admitted: “We the decision to press the reset button on Cannes Lions.”

Now, Duncan Painter, chief executive of Ascential said: "In the last six months we have made considerable progress with our strategic vision: enabling our customers to succeed in the digital economy. It is particularly pleasing that we have delivered strong organic growth from our products in both their live and digital formats.

“This is supported by a number of important strategic decisions, such as the disposal of Ascential Exhibitions, the Cannes Lions re-set and realignment of Cannes Lions' digital offering with the launch of The Work, the Digital Pass, and the acquisition of Warc. We were pleased with the initial steps taken to integrate our eCommerce analytics offerings, with One Click Retail traffic data now available on the Clavis platform, and the combined business delivering their first joint eCommerce Accelerator Summits in New York and London.”

The group has moved to make the Cannes Lions Festival “more relevant, affordable and accessible”. They noted that while income may have been down in this “reset” yet, customer satisfaction was almost as high as it has ever been for the event. It will leverage Warc and The Work to help deliver an awards honing in on “creative excellence and marketing effectiveness”.

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