Creative Coronavirus Lockdown

Cannes Lions promises return of a physical festival by June, prompting mixed reaction


By John Glenday | Reporter

January 14, 2021 | 4 min read

Cannes Lions Festival organisers are roaring back with an in-person programme for 2021, despite the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic showing no signs of receding.Organisers are keen to resume a physical presence following cancellation last years event, pencilling in June 21 to 25 for the event and provoking a mixed reaction from the advertising industry in the process.

Cannes Lions

Cannes Lions has promised to return in person this June

Lions to return in June

  • Last year’s festival was pulled by organisers once it became clear that the global pandemic would preclude any mass gathering of the global creative community from taking place.

  • One year on, organisers feel sufficiently confident to go ahead with their event over the third week of June as usual, with juries judging both this and last year’s work in an awards double bill.

  • Explaining the decision to go ahead this time around, Lions managing director Simon Cook said: “For more than 65 years Cannes Lions has set the benchmark for great creative work and after the disappointment of postponing the 2020 Lions awards, we look forward to presenting the work to the juries in June.“

  • While the virus continues to rip through communities now, the hope is that by the summer travel and free movement will have resumed sufficiently for delegates to make the trip to France in person.

  • Lions chairman Phillip Thomas added: “While travel is currently constrained, the availability of multiple vaccines offers hope that we can be together in June, even if we need to limit the numbers of delegates who can safely attend.“

  • The fluid situation casts a high degree of doubt as to whether this optimism is well-founded, a point addressed by Thomas, who has pledged to monitor events: “We will continue to carefully monitor the situation, and maintain our regular communications with the authorities in France, but there are many other large international events planned for the same timeline, and it’s clear from talking to the global industry that everybody is very keen to come together again.”

  • Making sure all eventualities are covered Cannes Lions will have a strong digital presence for those unwilling or unable to travel, following the success of last years digital series attended by 80,000 creative and marketing members.

Why it matters

  • Cannes Lions’ position amounts to either misplaced optimism or an important statement of hope and recovery depending on who you ask with many supporting the move as a ’business imperative for the festival and town’ rather than ’a practical possibility’.

  • The contrast between future expectations and today’s reality could not be starker with global lockdowns still in full force amid record numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the US.

  • Cannes Lions has also broken ranks with other major events such as SXSW, CES and Sundance, all of which have confirmed that they are pursuing a fully digital calendar through 2021.

Creative Coronavirus Lockdown

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Cannes Lions

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is a global event for those working in the creative communications, advertising and related fields. It is considered the largest gathering of the advertising and creative communications industry.

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