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Cannes Lions goes online only: Entries down despite 2-year gap

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

Cannes Lions is underway as a purely digital event for 2021, as the pandemic results in a more subdued festival of advertising creativity this year.

Cannes Lions organiser Ascential had intended to hold the 2021 event in person, but later announced it would be online-only given the state of the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers have revealed that overall entry numbers are down compared to 2019—despite this year’s awards spanning two years’ worth of work.

In total, 29,074 pieces of work from 90 countries have been entered to the Festival of Creativity, which will be held in a virtual format next week (21 to 25 June). That compares to 30,953 entries from 89 countries in 2019.

Ascential said the work comes from a broader mix of entrants than previous years, and across all Lions categories. Entries from independent agencies are up by 14 per cent, and from production companies by 19%.

Ascential said the new Creative Business Transformation Lions, celebrating “creativity that drives business forward”, had a “strong first year”. There was a 15% increase in the number of entries to the Titanium Lions, recognising work that “breaks new ground with provocative, boundary-busting, envy-inspiring ideas”, since the last festival.

Other categories to record growth in entry numbers include the Social & Influencer Lions (up 14%) and the Creative eCommerce Lions (up 12%).

However, entries to the the Creative Effectiveness Lions and the Creative Strategy Lions were down 38 per cent and 20 per cent respectively. Ascential said it suggests “companies have shifted to short-term strategy in the face of unprecedented circumstances”, adding that “work that relies on long-term strategy and results appears to have been hit this year”.

Phil Thomas, president of Ascential’s marketing division, which includes Cannes Lions, said: “We were happy [with the level of entries]. It was above what we expected. It was very, very hard to predict what was going to happen because you’ve got the two years together. We had a number of entries already in for 2020 and we didn’t know what they would want to do with those entries [in terms of entering them in this year’s awards].

“We’re happy to celebrate the work. We think the industry is really ready for it as well – to see some great work being celebrated.”

London-based investment bank Peel Hunt said of the awards entries: “While the pandemic has halted the physical event again, it is encouraging to see strong demand for the awards element. When investors consider the recovery potential for the wider event, these numbers are a useful indicator of the attitude of the end market. This suggests the recovery track for Cannes Lions should be robust when the live event can be held.”


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