Plans for Cannes Lions Festival 2021 in flux

Lion Cannes announced in January that its annual Festival of Creativity was returning to a live-event format this June after being cancelled last year due to COVID-19 pandemic.

But it looks like those plans are still evolving. Parent company Ascential issued its full-year 2020 financials recently, noting that the Festival will likely be a hybrid digital-live format, with in-person attendance on the ground in Cannes “if possible”. The wild-card: vaccination programmes around the world and how quickly they can be disseminated.

The awards portion of the event, which will judge two years’ worth of entries given last year’s cancellation, will now be “fully digital,” versus the on-site programme organisers spelled out in January.

Not surprisingly, Ascential’s cash flow from continuing operations took a major hit last year, falling more than 70% to 25.7 million GBP (approximately $35.6 million). Overall revenue was down 31%.

Revenue from the company’s marketing division, which includes Cannes Lions, research unit WARC and media/marketing consultant MediaLink was down 60% to 54.3 million GBP (about $75.4 million).

The firm’s other big event, Money20/20, was also cancelled. Many of the fees collected for last year’s Cannes Festival were retained and are being applied to participant fees for this year’s event. But the firm issued refunds for Money20/20.

The firm said it was using a number of scenarios to plan for the coming year including a successful vaccine rollout by summer that “assumes that Cannes Lions takes place in June 2021 and that Money20/20 takes place in Europe in September 2021 and in the US in October 2021.”

The worst case scenario: A slower recovery and vaccine rollout that results “in the cancellation of all events in 2021” with its “normal events roster recommencing in 2022.”

Ascential reported that WARC recorded “strong revenue growth,” supported by robust subscription renewals and supported by the first full year of a new advisory offering.

MediaLink saw “challenging trading conditions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic and specifically economic pressures on its core customer base.” The practice generated lower levels of retainer business, and reduced project and search activity. And the cancellation of Cannes didn’t help as it “reduced the opportunity to drive new business.”


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