Has the Cannes festival become too big?

Cannes is no longer about the work, the work, the work. At least that was the talk among some on the Croisette this year.

There’s no doubt the festival is unrecognisable from its early days. The sheer scale is mind-blowing. The arrival of clients has precipitated packed meeting schedules. Tech giants such as Microsoft, Facebook and Google have colonised the beach. And the biggest stories emerged from the Daily Mail yacht – the launch of the content agency Truffle Pig and DailyMailTV. The Publicis Worldwide chief executive, Arthur Sadoun, told Campaign he thought Cannes had lost some of its focus on creative excellence: "Are we really awarding big campaigns and big ideas?"

Meanwhile, WPP’s chief executive, Sir Martin Sorrell, said: "Is it too much, too big, too mad? I think that’s something that should be looked at, frankly." But do those hankering after the good old days need to move with the times? The definition of creativity is broadening and the Don Draper-style creative director is becoming a relic of the past. Cannes needs to evolve to remain relevant – and that is perhaps no bad thing.

Cannes organiser

Philip Thomas, chief executive, Lions Festivals

"This year, movie people told me Cannes Lions was more important than the film festival; music people that it was more important than Midem; and TV people that it was their most important event too. Most people in marketing and advertising welcome the breadth of the festival. It has become bigger, yes, but it has also become more important, which means our industry has become more important. And, as for creativity, just think: nothing that will win next year has yet been created. For us, it is all about the work, because we know that’s what makes Cannes different from any other event in the world."

Agency chief

Stephen Allan, worldwide chairman and chief executive, MediaCom

"Undeniably, Cannes Lions has got bigger, but I feel it has changed for the better. It’s less about the creative per se and more about how that creative – or content – creates a connection with the consumer. The festival has become more relevant and inclusive of our industry – which started when the likes of Microsoft and Google began coming to Cannes in force a few years ago. Today’s Cannes focuses more on the whole system of communications rather than the creative silo of old, making it more attractive to media agencies and clients. It’s a critical shift and one that’s reflected in the resurgence in popularity of Cannes Lions."


Susan Credle, incoming chief creative officer, FCB

"Festivals either fade away or evolve. Cannes has veered from an emphasis on creative excellence to excellence in marketing. A few years ago, I was on a boat with people who were sentimental about the old days when Cannes was a creative playground. We talked about reverting back to a festival in Venice and letting the media and business folks have their way with Cannes. I still like the idea. Yet I also like what Cannes is becoming. It elevates the entire industry. It makes what we do matter. In ten years, we will reminisce about Cannes today. Either because it has morphed, yet again, or it has become irrelevant."


Tham Khai Meng, worldwide chief creative officer, Ogilvy & Mather

"Has Cannes got too big? You betcha! At least judging by all the moans you hear as you wander through the sun-kissed tables. You can’t get a table for love nor money! 14 for a beer! Who are all these people? I don’t recognise anyone, they used to have a little booklet with all the names… But let me tell you a secret. All these people moaning will be back next year. Cannes is the Big One; everyone wants to be there. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, the only thing worse than paying 11 for a glass of Evian is not being there."

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