Is Cannes Lions becoming too big for its own good? As the festival closes for another year, ad giant Publicis Groupe shocked the marketing world by declaring it would pull out of the event next year.
The firm also announced it would no longer appear at other key events in the marketing calendar, SXSW and CES.
Publicis is currenly the third-largest ad agency network. Instead of spending money on award entries and hotel rooms at the festival, it will now invest the same money on a new AI product.
Now, another marketing giant, WPP has said it may follow suit,with Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, telling Variety that his company was considering a withdrawl as Cannes Lions’ is so big it has lost its focus. The firm sent only 500 staff to Cannes this year, down from 1,000 last year.
Sorrell also told Business Insider that people were complaining they felt “ripped off” by Cannes.
In the Variety interview in Cannes, he complained that Cannes Lions has grown beyond its original mission of focusing on creative excellence in advertising.
“This has morphed into a worldwide event, but I think it’s trying to be too many things to too many people,” Sorrell said. “Probably a bit too broad, and it’s probably lost its way.”
Sorrell speculated that other locations might be more suitable for a global worldwide advertising conference. For example, he thought the $450m Brooklyn Navy Yard development in New York City would have the space (and access to a major city) for an ad-industry conference.
Asked if WPP was going to potentially pull out of Cannes Lions, Sorrell said, “I think we should take a good, hard look at it.”
“Maybe Cannes in the middle of June is not the best destination,” he said. “You could do what Cannes does but in a different environment, and probably more powerfully.”
In addition, the Daily Mail, which last year had two gigantic party yachts pulled up at the docks and a party deck built alongside them, at an estimated cost of up to $8 million (£6.3 million), didn’t do anything this year.
Revenue at the Daily Mail was down 12% in the first half of fiscal 2017, so someone inside the company appears to have concluded that whatever deals they signed on their yachts last year were not good enough to require rebooking those boats this year.
Cannes Lions, which started in 1954, has traitionally focussed on celebrating the best advertising creative in the world. In recent years, it has attracted a growing flock of ad-tech firms, internet and media companies, and entertainment execs.