By now, most delegates have a sense, in most cases their own personal sense, of the mood at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this year. I ran into a Microsoft employee at an elevator at Martinez, and after the expected pleasantries and card exchange (it is not very wise to ignore a fellow Cannes delegate in an elevator at Martinez) the conversation began.
Her question on the go: do you think the buzz is missing at Cannes Lions this year. My instant reply: Well, it depends how you are looking at it.
There are just so many activities outside the Palais and even the beaches this year that the delegates may also be in agency apartments, company tents and cabanas so the crow is spread out. She nodded but even before another question or comment would come in, someone interrupts her and we say good-byes. By now, the routine is so well practised, that there is no awkwardness in mid sentence good-byes.
However, as I was walking back from the Martinez to the Palais des Festivals, I was thinking how uncanny it was that Sir Martin Sorrell also drew attention to something similar in a conversation earlier in the day. Mr Sorrell had only just arrived at the Festival on Tuesday, and his team has got busy working, hoping and praying that the packed schedule of the week achieves the expected objectives. True for all holding company CEOs who are already at Cannes. Mr Sorrell’s comment was that there was a drop in attendance this year, especially from Brazil. Brazil sends around a 1000 delegates to Cannes Lions every year – in all, nearly 11,000 – 12,000 people register to attend Cannes Lions. This year, there is a nearly a 20 per cent drop in Brazil delegates. Also World Cup sponsors such as Coca-Cola are not at the Festival this year since they are at Brazil.
So, the perception is correct – there is a drop in the number of people at Cannes. But here is the second aspect…
…Cannes Lions draws a set of people – usually accompanying delegates – who don’t register for the Festival and hence not allowed at the Palais. This year, I met a rather sizeable number of people who were at Cannes for the full week, who were attending agency parties, seminars hanging out at Google Sandbox – essentially doing business – but without registering to be at the Palais. This set would not necessarily be detected amongst the Cannes delegates, so the number of people at Cannes Lions has to be more than the said 11,000-12,000.
Essentially, the buzz is not missing at Cannes – it is becoming a bit like the marketing and communication business itself. There is a clear shift towards new forms of advertising, coming on the back of technology. It is creating a fragmented structure but relevance, context is becoming a core aspect of it. The unregistered may not be able to attend seminars, see exhibitions or attend awards but that is not what they are looking for anyway. They are here to network and meet the right people. It may at best beg the question whether the organisers should be worried about what appears to be a rising trend on no delegate fees but these are incremental audiences anyway.
The argument there can go to and fro. This is not to say it is good or bad – it is just Cannes Lions once again reflecting the reality of the industry.