The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the advertising world’s most high-profile event, announced today it has secured a contingency plan to move from June to October in the event that COVID-19’s spread has not been adequately contained.
The festival says it will decide no later than April 15 whether to stick with the current dates of June 22-26 or move the weeklong event to Oct. 26-30, a date it has now locked in with the city of Cannes, France.
“As we stand today, all of our plans are proceeding as scheduled, and we are still working towards Cannes Lions 2020 taking place as planned on June 22,” said Cannes Lions managing director Simon Cook in a statement. “However, as the global situation is evolving constantly, we want to be open about our contingency plans. We have consulted with our customers and partners and have prepared accordingly by putting measures in place to allow flexibility, should we need it. As always, the safety of all those involved is our utmost priority, and any decision we take will reflect this.”
The contingency planning comes as the festival’s host country of France has been one of the world’s hotspots in the outbreak of COVID-19, the flu-like disease spread by a new and highly communicable strain of coronavirus. As of Tuesday, the country had reported 1,784 confirmed cases, with 84 in intensive care and 33 proving fatal.
On Sunday, the French government temporarily banned all events with more than 1,000 attendees, following up an earlier ban on events with more than 5,000 attendees. The Cannes Lions draws about 12,000 official attendees each year, with many more marketing and tech professionals arriving to take part in events on the festival’s periphery.
Similar in size, the Cannes Film Festival is scheduled to take place even earlier, from May 12-23, and has so far not announced any plans to reschedule.
Due to its summer timing, Cannes Lions had been holding firm to its June dates as many other industry events scheduled for March, April and May announced cancellations or shifts to become online-only events.
Mobile World Congress, slated for late February in Barcelona, was the first large tech event to be canceled. The decision came after many sponsors and major tech platforms who had planned to attend announced they would be pulling out of the event. Some tentpole events, most notably Austin tech/music festival SXSW and California arts and music gathering Coachella, attempted to ride out the spread of COVID-19, but continued travel restrictions and government advisories against large gatherings forced both events to black out their dates. SXSW was canceled outright, while Coachella has been rescheduled for October.
In the advertising world, with many of its awards and festivals clustered in the spring, the fate of major events has been largely uncertain. The One Club has announced its annual Creative Week planned for May will now be online-only, though officials at the nonprofit parent organization say the event is not a major revenue source compared to entry fees. That’s in contrast to Ascential-owned Cannes Lions, which generates much of its money from on-site spaces and activations such as branded beaches, concerts and cabanas.
For now, London’s D&AD Festival remains scheduled for May 19-21.
For more updates on how the coronavirus outbreak has affected industry events, be sure to check out Adweek’s frequently updated roster of event cancellations and travel restrictions.