Cannes Lions is set to be purely a digital event for 2021, the organizers have announced after initially stating earlier this year their intention for the annual festival to take place in France as usual.
With France seeing growing Covid-19 cases once again, with a new round of restrictions being put in place as a result, the festival will become entirely digital, but stick to the original timescale of June 21 to 25.
April 7: Cannes Lions chairman Philip Thomas said in a statement: “We are now able to move fully to this format for 2021, which will have all the celebration, inspiration and participation of Cannes Lions to unite the global community virtually during Cannes Lions Live this June.
The awards will return after last year’s cancellation, while access to the online event will be made free for Lions members, which will open in May at a price of $300 annually.
Past winners will be given a complimentary membership.
“Over the last year, we’ve been consulting with our customers and working on our plans, including the development of Cannes Lions Live as part of the new Lions Membership platform,” Thomas said.
Cannes Lions managing director Simon Cook said in another statement of the pause in running awards last year: “We want to be able to give our community the chance to immerse themselves in the creative work once again.”
Below are previous updates from Adweek’s ongoing reporting on the status of the 2021 Cannes Lions. MediaLink relocates its ‘beach’ to NYC and London
April 5: Cannes Lions sibling company MediaLink confirmed to Adweek that it will be relocating its MediaLink Beach event associated with the festival to two of advertising’s biggest cities, with plans to host hybrid in-person and virtual events in London and New York.
The company, which was acquired by Ascential in 2017, is committing to a hybrid approach for the events, with the flexibility to adapt and adjust the amount of in-person attendance accordingly given the uncertainties of the situation.
“Throughout the calendar year, MediaLink hosts industry gatherings and thought leadership sessions that accompany major tentpoles and moments that matter,” MediaLink chairman and CEO Michael Kassan said in a statement. “We have decided to bring our annual MediaLink Beach this year to both New York and London for our partners and the industry at large. We look forward to sharing more details shortly.”
Kassan told Adweek that MediaLink’s goal was to host as much of the events in-person as safety allows, with virtual elements also an important element. He added that he believed there is currently a great deal of pent-up demand for such events and by the third week of June public vaccination efforts should have progressed to the degree necessary to allow for safe gatherings.
In January, Ascential said it would move forward with the annual festival but were optimistic it would be in-person.
At the time, Lions chairman Philip Thomas commented in a statement: “While travel is currently constrained, the availability of multiple vaccines offers hope that we can be together in June, even if we need to limit the numbers of delegates who can safely attend. He continued: “We will continue to carefully monitor the situation, and maintain our regular communications with the authorities in France, but there are many other large international events planned for the same timeline and it’s clear from talking to the global industry that everybody is very keen to come together again.
The cost of not running the festival
March 15: The cost for Ascential of missing a year of the French advertising festival was stark, according to its end-year financial results released in March.
The “Events” section of its annual shareholder report showed a 97% decline, from $89.1 million to just $2.4 million. Its “Marketing” revenue declined year over year by 59%, dropping from $189 million to $75.5 million. The hosting of Lions Live, a digital-only replacement, which the business said drew more than 80,000 participants, did not make the difference needed. Ascential’s main sources of revenue in 2020 came from The Works–its subscription service to showcase creativity—and its Advisory in Creative Excellence practice.
As the awards did not take place last year, this year’s trophies are planned to celebrate a two-year period from March 2019 through April 2021 and will be judged fully digitally with juries being conducted virtually, a strategy that was tested during sister festival Eurobest in December, as well as the Spikes in Asia and Dubai Lynx.
“We remain convinced that face-to-face engagement has a unique appeal, particularly for leading global events such as Cannes Lions,” the financial results statement stated. “We greatly look forward to welcoming the creative community back to the platform this June, where we are planning to deliver a next-generation hybrid event combining a broad and global virtual reach, including fully digital awards, with in-person physical participation if possible.