Cannes Lions returning to in-person festivities in 2022

Will it be third time lucky for Cannes Lions? For two consecutive years, Lions organizers said that the International Festival of Creativity would go ahead as planned at its famous home on the shores of the French Mediterranean, only to have to move everything to a virtual setting because of Covid.

But on Tuesday, Cannes Lions once again announced that the world’s biggest advertising conference and awards show(s) will be held in-person at the Palais des Festivals in the iconic French city from June 20-24.

However, it seems that—like many things—Cannes Lions has been fundamentally altered by the pandemic. Next year’s Festival will be a “hybrid” event, allowing people to take part virtually and building on the Lions Membership introduced last March as “a year-round platform created to unite the global creative community through access to inspiration, learning, creative resources, a global directory of talent, and both digital and physical community gatherings.”

“We can’t wait to reunite the industry and bring the community together once again,” said Lions chairman Philip Thomas in the Tuesday release. “As the world continues to shift and change we know that our role as conveners needs to evolve. Building Cannes Lions as a hybrid Festival will allow us to continue to reach our expanded creative community who we have welcomed through our digital initiatives over the last 18 months.”

In March 2020, Festival organizers wanted to first postpone the event until October, but it was eventually moved entirely online as the pandemic spread. Early this year, organizers announced their intention to hold the event in-person in Cannes, but by April it was once again turned into an online-only affair.

Cannes remains a singular event on the global ad industry calendar, and the most revered honour around the world. And while it is often criticized as a symbol of the industry’s self-congratulatory excesses, its return in 2022 could also make it a symbol of the return to familiar pre-Covid routines.

But that doesn’t mean it will be identical. In fact, Tuesday’s announcement made it clear that organizers feel the Festival has to be different going forward.

“We are putting the foundations in place to build a purposeful Festival that allows our community to come together in a meaningful way,” said Lions managing director Simon Cook. “Through highly curated content, community networking opportunities and agenda setting initiatives Cannes Lions will provide an annual forum for the global industry to address the most pressing issues the industry and world are facing today.”

Sustainability will be top of mind said Cook, who promised to hold the “most sustainable Festival in history.”

Cannes Lions also promised to adhere to the latest health guidelines leading up to the event, and has developed best practice health and safety standards. Organizers confirmed to The Message that all attendees will have to be fully vaccinated or present a negative Covid test, with daily testing provided “as part of the delegate experience.”

The call for entries will open on Jan. 20, and while final judging will be conducted in person, preliminary judging will be done remotely.

David Brown