Cannes Unpacked

The Editor’s view. Stephen Lepitak

Issue 44 | September 2017

Every year the advertising sector at large moans about Cannes Lions. It's almost the done thing to have a moan about it; too long, too expensive, too busy, too focused on technology, not focused enough on creativity, too much wine, too much sun... take your pick. Everyone has something to complain about.

And perhaps that is the major problem with the festival - a lack of focus now that it has reached a scale that is impressive in size but unwieldy in culture.

I'll admit, over the six years I've been attending, I have found it an increasingly tough experience trying juggling the content of the Palais with the meetings and content on the Croissette.

As someone who likes to meet and talk to interesting people, the external goings-on to the main programme have always been my favourite element of the festival - I'll take a look at the work as and when I can, but ultimately it's not my reason for being there.

This year, I thought the talk around expense to be less of a surprise from the networks, who are feeling the pinch, while the technology companies and the consultancies show up in force without complaint. And that is the crux of that issue - the industry is moving away from creative agencies to technology companies, who can meet the digital needs on a grander scale.

Walking down the Croissette, I feel Cannes Lions actually does offer a decent representation of the industry's major trends. On the beach, enjoying the sun in the last few years, you'll find Google, Twitter and Facebook with Havas/Vivendi across the road. Meanwhile the traditional network agencies are holed up in the hotels out of the heat.

That feels about right for how the industry is working at the moment. Meanwhile the startups and the traditional creative elements are hidden away inside the Palais, where they don't disturb those who aren't really there for that.

The awards take place and add the glamour and reasoning for being there - but I would argue that the awards are long past being the focus of the week. You don't need to win or even know who the winners are to make a success of attending.

There's still a lot of value in Cannes Lions - and I predict it will continue to grow despite any threat of a network recession. The networks are no longer the be all and end all.

Where Cannes Lions falls down is simply this: what's it all about really? And that I would struggle to tell you for sure.

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