Do Cannes Media Lions still matter?

Depending on who you speak to, and at what point during the festival, the Lions' importance changes. By Alasdair Reid.

In recent years, London has been way out on its own when it comes to cynicism about the Cannes Lions.

Our creative community has always harboured pockets of ambivalence and distrust – and no more so than in recent years, when our agencies just haven’t been taking home the number of prizes that you would expect.

And, of course, you could argue that our media agencies have been underperforming too. We used to believe that we played a large part in inventing the whole discipline and had effortlessly maintained our leadership credentials down the years.

Recently, however, we’ve had a track record more akin to Bonnie Tyler’s performance in the Eurovision Song Contest.

For media folk, ongoing cynicism is easy to justify. Cannes, with its propensity to award stunt work on charity campaigns; Cannes, with its bias towards risqué work from agencies in markets with barely any regulation to speak of; Cannes, withits determination to ignorethe sort of solid-yet-inspired media ideas that deliver truly effective campaigns and impressive return on investment figures.

And let’s not forget the advertising agencies that continue to be awarded for media entries that somehow omit the part played by the actual media agency.

And network bosses could easily make a case for national awards being far more important to individual agencies, wider business and morale – while being considerably cheaper than traipsing everyone off to Cannes to get smashed on rosé.

But such moaning is starting to fade as increasingly positive correlations are being made between winning at Cannes and winning in the marketplace. The festival is unique: it is the marketing world’s fair and media is growing as an ever-more important force within it. It’s a joyous celebration, in the sunshine, of everything that our industry has to offer and, as such, all aspects of it should be embraced with unequivocal enthusiasm.

Different opinions remain, often voiced by the same person, depending on how the night unfolds. But do senior media people really care about winning in Cannes?


YES Helen McRae, chief operating officer, EMEA, Mindshare

"Awards are generally flawed. Also, Cannes generally is as much a celebration of technology as it is of content, and the media awards have not kept pace. Still, for all that carping, it’s a great brand and a great celebration of our industry."

YES Iain Jacob, president, dynamic markets, Starcom MediaVest Group

"Have you ever noticed Cannes Media Lions don’t matter… only to the losers? This global recognition of great work matters more than ever. Innovation that creates changes in how people behave is the lifeblood of our industry."

YES Philippa Brown, chief executive, Omnicom Media Group EMEA

"Cannes Media Lions are the gold standard measurement of media creativity, recognised by clients and the industry. Agencies take Cannes seriously and enter their best work. When agencies win, they are the best awards in the world."

YES Grant Millar, global brand director, Carat

"Cannes is the oldest, biggest celebration of the best work – and the media industry’s presence there has been growing. Contrary to what the naysayers may tell you, the Media Lions are a focus on product excellence delivered for clients."