With Lack of Awards Shows, Arthur Sadoun Decides Publicis Groupe Cannes Do It Themselves

By Erik Oster 

In these (sigh) unprecedented times, creativity is needed now more than ever, and Publicis Groupe is choosing to respond with a Cannes Do attitude.

In his weekly address to Publicis Groupe employees, Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun emphasized the importance of creativity in “a world that needs big ideas more than ever” and introduced the holding company’s internal Cannes Do Awards.

While perhaps not the most creative of names, the goal of Cannes Do—focusing on the positive aspects of the work when it feels all too easy to focus on a wave of bad news—seems to be one that most industry pros can relate to. Interestingly, the move to name an internal award after advertising’s biggest festival comes just two years after Publicis Groupe chose to (mostly) sit out the Cannes Lions.


Sadoun began his address by acknowledging that the crisis is “beginning to weigh on all of us,” adding, “Let’s face it, we shouldn’t be thinking about life after Covid, but life with Covid.”

He then pivoted to a focus on creativity, calling its continued importance “the one thing that is certain” in the industry, clarifying that he meant creativity “in all of its forms, in everything we do.” Citing the need to celebrate such work at a time when the world is dominated by a list of things we can’t do, he expressed a desire to “celebrate the best work around the Groupe” that is worthy of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity—even if the festival is canceled this year.

Sadoun called on Publicis Groupe employees to send their best work from the past 12 months. Submissions are open for the next two weeks. Once collected, creative leaders from across the network, including would-be members of the 2020 Cannes Lions juries, will select a shortlist of 30 entries across all of its disciplines, including advertising, data, media and technology.

“It will involve all of our disciplines, as creativity is everywhere,” Sadoun explained, adding that the work highlighted will involve “the ideas that have had the biggest business impact and the work that has the most potential to be award winning.”

Once the shortlist is selected, beginning on June 14, Publicis Groupe will open up voting on finalists to holding company employees. Publicis Groupe will then reveal the top 10 through a webcast on June 26, running exclusively on its AI-driven connectivity platform Marcel, which he contends will be in global use by then.

Publicis Groupe accelerated the debut of Marcel in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, introducing it in the U.S. last month ahead of a global rollout. A beta version of Marcel was introduced in the U.K. in 2019. Sadoun explained that another reason Publicis Groupe is referring to the internal honor as the Cannes Do Awards is that the teams behind the shortlisted campaigns will be invited to attend the 2021 Cannes Lions festival.

“At a moment when we are all separated, this is another opportunity for us to unite around one of the many things that make us feel passionate about what we do, even in tough times. We are our best ideas, and we are counting on your active participation, Sadoun concluded.