Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Publicis Pulling Out Cannes And Other Awards Is A Mistake

As an advertising recruiter, I was very dismayed last week when I read that Publicis management, with no advanced warning, pulled its agencies out of next year’s Cannes advertising festival as well as all other award shows.  It is one more example of the holding companies dictating how their agencies manage themselves; the worst part is that the agencies were not informed of the decision before it was announced. (Of course not, it would have generated push-back)  It is one more blow to the creativity in the business.

The Cannes Lion has become the most prestigious creative award in the business.  Clients respect it.  Agencies thrive on it.  And creative people aspire to it.  Sometimes the competition is quite heated, as it was this year in several categories.

It is good for the business.  I have never heard of a Gold Lion winner not producing sales or perception increases for the brand’s or services for which it was won.

With one of the major players removed from the competition, it is one more example of the dumbing- down of the business.  Publicis said the money spent on Cannes (and other awards) would be redirected to an Artificial Intelligence (AI) project, which has not spelled out.  The trade press estimated that a total of $20 million was spent by all Publicis agencies on Cannes.

Give me a break.

That is about the salary of one of their corporate management people.  Get rid of one of them to find the money.  It is a minuscule amount compared to their total revenues and profits. It is a short-sighted savings which only serves to dampen the entire business.  It was bad enough that WPP asked its agencies to cut back on Cannes expenses.  What’s next:  WPP or Omnicom dropping out?
Dropping out only hurts the entire business. It certainly will hurt recruiting for Publicis owned agencies.  It is not that creative people won't go there, but perhaps the best and the brightest will go elsewhere.

Creative awards have always been an incentive for ad agencies.  They are also a recognition of the work by others in the business.  It is ridiculous and may do more harm than good.  The explanation by Arthur Sadoun, President-CEO of Publicis, that this is only a one year decision, is unacceptable. Publicis dropping out is no different than if  Paramount pulled out of the Oscars to fund new scripts. 

I would urge Mr Sadoun to reconsider.


  1. There are some things in life that transcend money. Not many, but some. And one of them is being recognized by one’s peers for extraordinary professional accomplishment in whatever we do. And no more so than in the creative arts, where value is always in the eye of the beholder. Artists like da Vinci, Rembrandt, van Gogh, Picasso, Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, and Chopin all accomplished amazing things, but they never got their “15 Seconds” (h/t, Andy Warhol) or money until they were dead. So what’s the point of even bothering to do it? Advertising may seem like a very mundane pursuit by comparison, but tell that to the top Creatives who think and labor just as hard. And that’s why we have and need special events like Cannes. “It’s not business; it’s personal”.

    1. Good point, Bill. I got a notice on LinkedIn by a person who believes that Cannes and the like should go away. He couldn't be more wrong. Awards attract people to the industry and help make it glamorous; the holding companies have taken much of the glamour away and agencies need to fight back.


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