Simon Cook on how Cannes can continue
As the festival kicks off its week-long series of events, the Lions MD speaks to shots about how turning digital has democratised the industry and if we're ever likely to see the shindig return to the South of France.
Cannes Lions is back, but, obviously, not BACK back. What's been the process in bringing the physical event to the virtual stage?
The Awards are front and centre for this edition of Cannes Lions Live and there's a lot of anticipation out there! We had to pause the awards last year, so our global experts have been judging across a two year period. We’re dedicating an entire channel to the award shows, broadcast from Cannes, where we’ll reveal the winners.
There will be a series of 28 official ‘Debrief Sessions’ that will follow, analysing the winning work and featuring interviews with our many Jury Presidents from their home cities across the world. Our data studio will track the winning work live to provide analysis.
The winning work tells us a really interesting story about our collective journey through the pandemic
We’re not able to present this kind of in-depth insight at the physical Festival, so it’s great to be able to bring this to our global audience and members around the world.
We’ve also collaborated with outstanding creators to make 150 films (close to 40 hours of content), which will be on-demand from the start of the week. So our members can binge to their heart's content.
Can you talk to us about the decision on entry periods and eligibility for the awards themselves? Were different scenarios proposed?
We had long, deep conversations with the community about this. Ultimately, we wanted to make sure that it was extremely fair.
The early stats show us that the Lions are almost completely balanced between 2020 and 2021 work. Also, each of the juries were given an opportunity to award two Grand Prix. One for each year.
We’re looking forward to the awards because the winning work tells us a really interesting story about our collective journey through the pandemic, these unusual times and the evolving role of creativity.
How has the judging process differed and what elements was it essential to try and keep the same?
Our biggest priority was ensuring that the process remained robust in order to uphold the integrity of the Lions. The platform we built was trialled at the smaller shows we ran throughout the year and the feedback was extremely positive.
Cannes Lions will always exist as a physical festival.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our juries. It really was a military operation to make it all possible. Keeping the juries truly global was extremely important, so we battled time zones, schedules - and even flew some jurors from one coast to another to ensure that we could reach further across the world and have a truly inclusive line-up of experts.
In the absence of bringing them together physically, we were 100% committed to delivering a judging process that ensures every piece of work is given the time and discussion it deserves. The commitment of our juries and staff was just staggering!
This is a big one: will Cannes Lions ever be the same again? Do you think any festival can expect to see huge numbers attending from all over the world?
Cannes Lions will always exist as a physical festival. I think this period has highlighted the innate need for humans to interact in the physical. There’s nothing quite like the Cannes Lions Festival. Anyone in our industry who has been and experienced it will know how special it is. Some of the industry’s most enduring, Lion-winning creative collaborations began as chance meetings in Cannes. The appetite to return was huge this year – to learn, celebrate, be inspired and connect - I’m sure that appetite will only grow stronger next year.
Digital has enabled us to be more inclusive and to democratise creativity and it’s so important that we retain that.
The last 15 months have also shown us that there’s no certainty in anything and we have to be ready to adapt. LIONS will always have a strong digital component going forward. We’ll be offering our audiences a mix of physical and digital experiences, reaching those people that cannot make it to Cannes and providing our community with year-round access to the LIONS Membership platform, built for everyone in the business of creativity to network, learn, showcase their work, and interact with the global community outside of the festival week. Digital has enabled us to be more inclusive and to democratise creativity and it’s so important that we retain that.
Above: The Cannes Palais des Festival, the Lions' traditional home.
What are you going to miss most about the physical event this year? What are you most excited for people to experience in this year's festival?
I’m going to miss the physical energy of the creative community - thousands of people from all over the world - coming together in Cannes. There’s nothing quite like it. I’m delighted however, that so many people will be able to take part online as part of Lions Membership. We’re excited to see how this will grow to become a destination for everyone in the business of creativity throughout the year.
I’m going to miss the physical energy of the creative community.
I’m most excited about the awards and the body of work we’re going to see at Cannes Lions Live. The Lions are a comeback moment for the industry that reinforces the importance of world-class creativity in driving business performance and as a vital tool for change in society and the world at large. I’ve seen the list of winners. It’s going to be quite a spectacle.
What do you reckon - will we be sipping rose on the Croisette this time next year?
I would like that very much.
I’m excited to see how the two worlds intersect. The physical festival - and the many thousands of people taking part around the world, all united in their commitment to creativity that drives progress.