Cannes Lions finally returns, but entries are off 18% from before the pandemic

The International Festival of Creativity is finally back as in-person affair in Cannes starting Monday, though many may be wondering if it’s back to normal or back to something different after the pandemic.

A good clue came on Friday, when Cannes Lions announced 25,464 total entries across all categories and competitions. That’s down from 29,074 entries last year, although that version of the Festival covered two years after the 2020 event was cancelled by Covid.

A better measuring stick might be the 2019 Festival. There were 30,953 submissions that year, meaning total entries this year are down about 18% from the last Cannes Lions before the pandemic.

However, total entries had also been trending downward leading up to the pandemic, as the Festival organizers looked to streamline things following Publicis’s withdrawal in 2018, and a growing number of complaints that the Lions had gotten too big and bloated.

A recent high-water entry mark of 43,101 in 2016 was followed by totals of 41,170 in 2017, and just 32,372 in 2018.

In the release announcing the entry totals, Festival organizers highlighted an increase in the Creative Effectiveness Lions, which it calls “the only global benchmark of the measurable impact of creativity.” The competition saw 258 entries, up 83% from last year, and up about 14% from 2019 (227 entries).

“The strong uptick in the number of compelling entries is a great testament about how marketers are increasingly understanding the investment of the Creative Effectiveness Lions and their value in driving long-term brand building,” said jury president Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard’s chief marketing and communications officer.

New for 2022 are the Creative B2B Lions, which saw 415 entries. “We started discussing a Lion that recognised B2B work way back in 2013, and having seen a recent rise in B2B work winning Lions, we felt that now was the right time to put it on the global stage,” said Lions chairman Philip Thomas. “It’s now the job of our juries to determine the global benchmark and set the creative bar in this sector.”

The Festival also received 402 entries from Ukraine, which were accepted free of charge. No entries were accepted from Russia this year.

Juries are in Cannes now reviewing all of the work, with the first in-person Lions awards show in three years Monday night at the iconic Palais des Festivals. The Message will be covering the winners, with a special focus on Canadian entries.

David Brown