Cannes Lions cancelled for 2020

Just two weeks after moving from June to October because of the COVID crisis, Cannes Lions said early Friday that the International Festival of Creativity has been cancelled entirely for 2020.

The next Festival will take place June 21-25, 2021. “It has become clear to us our customers’ priorities have shifted to the need to protect people, to serve consumers with essential items and to focus on preserving companies, society and economies,” said a statement released by the festival.

The cancellation is a dramatic signal of just how much the industry has been changed—and how quickly—by the global pandemic.

Six weeks ago Cannes Lions introduced its first sessions and speakers for 2020; three weeks ago, it unveiled a contingency plan if the coronavirus made the scheduled June event impossible; two weeks ago that contingency plan was enacted and the festival moved to October. And yet today, the cancellation will seem obvious to many.

Ad agencies of all sizes are undertaking severe cost-cutting measures, and marketers are revisiting spending and communications during the global pandemic. Budgets have been frozen, and major brand campaigns months in the making were scrapped.

Earlier this week WPP said it would stop all discretionary costs including awards shows, and Omnicom was reportedly also going to skip the Festival this year, with Publicis and Interpublic also still considering how or if they would take part.

Even if the worst of the pandemic is over by October—with travel restrictions loosened and public gatherings permitted—it has become increasingly clear that the industry wouldn’t be ready to take part in an event that is all about looking back and celebrating the year that was.

“Cannes Lions at its core has always been about creativity and the Lions. We realize that the creative community has other challenges to face, and simply isn’t in a position to put forward the work that will set the benchmark,” said Cannes Lions chair Philip Thomas, in the statement.

“The marketing and creative industries, in common with so many others, are currently in turmoil, and it’s clear that we can play our small part by removing all speculation about the Festival this year.”

“We believe firmly that the Lions continue to offer valuable recognition to [the global creative] community and we look forward to celebrating and honouring the work in 2021, when the world will hopefully feel more stable, and our community can give their work the focus it deserves,” added Simon Cook, Lions managing director.


David Brown