Cannes Lions Wants To Avoid Refunds

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Cannes Lions

The Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity will not issue refunds for its canceled 2020 event, or at least organizers are trying to avoid it, says festival Chairman Philip Thomas.

“A lot of the people who can go to Cannes, our delegates, come from really large, multi-billion-dollar companies,” Thomas tells Ad Age. “They are much bigger than we are. We have taken a big hit this year. While we understand businesses are having a hard time, we are asking for people to transfer their passes to 2021.”

Thomas says Cannes Lions is “happy to change names on passes.” He notes that the festival has “suppliers and staff” to support through this time, too, and it has already had to furlough some employees. Thomas declined to say how many employees were temporarily laid off.

That said, Thomas adds, “We don’t want anyone to be in difficulty. If they are, of course, we’ll talk to them about” refunding their 2020 passes.

“I just want to say to the industry: We’d really like their help in getting through this,” Thomas says.

Last week, parent company Ascential made the decision to cancel the 2020 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, which had been previously postponed to October. As a result, the next Cannes Lions will be held June 21-25, 2021. The decision followed speculation about the future of the festival this year, after holding companies including WPP and Omnicom decided to pull out. Independent Wieden+Kennedy, one of the most creative shops in the industry, also planned not to go.

A Cannes Lions spokesperson said in a statement at the time that “pass holders will be provided with a credit equal to the value of pass fees, to be applied towards the next festival” in 2021. The statement continued, “Delegates do not need to take action and the passes will be moved to 2021 automatically. If a pass holder is unable to make the festival in 2021 and would like somebody else to take their pass, then we will allow for the name to be changed free of charge.”

Creative submissions already in for 2020 will also be automatically transferred to the 2021 judging pool, according to Cannes Lions.

The statement did not specify, though, whether people who did not wish to attend in 2021, or were unable to attend, would be provided refunds. Based on Thomas’ comments, it seems that organizers are trying to avoid issuing refunds as much as possible.

In a recent live episode of Ad Age Remotely, Horizon Media CEO Bill Koenigsberg commented on the issue, noting how he had heard Cannes Lions would not be issuing refunds for 2020, which “quite surprised me … I think they need to.”

The pandemic has certainly dealt a big blow to agencies with advertisers pausing marketing, events shutting down and, as Ad Age recently reported, clients delaying payments to shops and other vendors. Still, the Cannes Lions and its parent Ascential are also facing pressure.

According to Ad Age Datacenter estimates, Ascential in 2019 generated about $174 million in revenue, or about one-third of the company’s overall revenue from its marketing segment, which includes the Cannes Lions awards, data venture WARC and strategic advisory firm MediaLink.

R3 Co-Founder and Principal Greg Paull estimates that holding companies can spend from $20 to $30 million on Cannes each year “by the time you factor in flights, hotels, access passes and all those cocktails on La Croisette.”

Credit: Ad Age

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