How different, if at all, do you think events and gatherings, such as Cannes, will be this year?
Steve Davies, CEO, APA London: "It is hard to say. I think people will be keener than ever to go but won’t be able to commit to booking. It will be a last-minute choice, plus, brands won’t want to commit in uncertainty, so I think [it will be] more modest in scale than we are used to seeing."
Wesley ter Haar, Founder & MD, MediaMonks: "If we manage [events] this year I suspect we'll see a mixture of proof of vaccinations, speed testing, temperature checks and the like around bigger events and gatherings. Some of that probably as part of just using airlines."
Ed Sayers, director, Seven Productions: "I’m curious to see how this past year affects people when things can become more normal. I’m conflicted… we’ve given the Earth a break and stopped charging about everywhere, finding new ways to do things. That said, you can never beat face-to-face, in full sensorama 3D."
I’m curious to see how this past year affects people when things can become more normal.
Andréa Stillacci, CEO & Founder, Herezie Paris: "That depends. For virtual events, it will be very different. It’s like looking at a Mark Rothko painting in real life versus in a magazine. The creative intention, the visual inspiration are there on the page, but without the emotional depth you have when you sit in front of the real piece. Having said that, I think that the inspiring dynamics of a global competition like the Cannes Lions will keep on shining even via the screens of our computers."
Ine Kim, Head of PR, HALAL Amsterdam: "More local, less diverse audiences. Even though some events may take a physical form again this year, [their] shape will most likely be different than pre-Covid. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as we've all had the opportunity to rethink the way we do things and hopefully there are lessons learned to change things up going forward. I can imagine the events that will take place will be smaller in scale and find playful ways (hopefully) to make sure digital attendance will be as rewarding as it can be. I am excited to see how the industry will push the digital formats to be even more engaging to ensure international and more widespread attendance. 2020 and its multiple online festival/award shows showcased a more egalitarian way of doing things, unlocking many of these festivals to people who could not have attended before (travel, money, time etc). That's a huge bonus and has tremendous value for our industry at so many levels.
Above: The usual throng of people crowding into events will likely not take place this year.
Georgie MacEchern, Sales & PR, Caviar London: "I feel [Cannes' announcement] is a really positive boost for events and our industry moral in general for 2021. However, I do feel these events/gatherings will be a lot smaller in size and scale as the marketing spend for companies I'm sure will be greatly reduced this year due to the knock-on effects of the ongoing pandemic. I think its hard to gauge at this stage how large Cannes Lions will be as it really does depend where we are with the virus in early summer, and whether travel opens up and clients/companies feel it is a good use of their money allowing staff to travel and attend. I believe we will see a trend for such festivals and events becoming a clever combination of in person attendance with a higher focus on the online strategy, since numbers of attendees will be drastically down.
I think industry events will no-doubt struggle to achieve the same atmosphere as previous years and it’s important that they adapt accordingly.
Samuel Cantor, Executive Producer, Bacon Copenhagen: "After the year we've been through we'll all probably have to get used to being in a crowd again. Besides that, it will obviously be an absolute joy to get back to events like Cannes. And, since we haven’t really been able to meet up physically with our international friends and colleagues, the primary focus of industry events this year will most likely be on socialising and networking. In other words: It will be even more social than usual. This will only be amplified by the fact that there are fewer great films eligible for the contest since we are coming off a year of highly restricted film production."
Paul Reynolds, Managing Director & Partner, MassiveMusic London: "I think there will be a good number of people desperate for a real, in-person networking event, and where better than the glamorous location of Cannes? But I think industry events will no-doubt struggle to achieve the same atmosphere as previous years and it’s important that they adapt accordingly. Safety will need to be seen as the priority by organisers. I think it will be a while before we see events, like Cannes, reach the attendance levels of previous years and it’s hard to imagine that everything will go back to the way things used to be before we ever heard of Covid-19. What I imagine we’ll see is a similar approach to how workplaces are changing; a more blended approach of in-person and digital which, although will feel different, could be the type of innovation legacy events like Cannes have been crying out for."
Jiri Bures, ECD, Imagination EMEA: "As Cannes Lions announced it was going ahead this year, it also highlighted that there would naturally be a significant digital element to this year’s festivities. While the lack of physical events last year threw a curveball for the industry, by and large the challenge was met with some innovative and exciting experience solutions. The digital leap in technology accelerated the delivery of virtual and hybrid events that would not have been impossible at the same scale in real life. So it is with enthusiasm we look forward to this year’s Cannes Lions event, where we predict to see further innovation in events design, supported by technology and with a stronger focus on user experience."
Ali Rez, Regional ECD, Impact BBDO Dubai: "I think it's still too soon to call it; despite all the good hope generated by the global vaccination drives. A number of events and gatherings might still be held online, and I envision that even physical events will have a larger online attendance than before. Content at events might become much more meaningful after what has been a year full of introspection and learnings. I do hope things are much better by the time June comes around, as it would be good to have a physical event to get the global industry together to celebrate a way forward."
Above [clockwise from top left]: Ed Sayers, Becky McOwens-Banks, Georgie MacEchern, Paul Reynolds, Rik Moore and Samuel Cantor.
Do you think the lack of physical events and festivals over 2020 has had an effect on the industry?
SD: "I think it has. The networking, seeing people, hearing what they are doing is critical... There has been the odd online event pulled off with style, but overall I don’t think people want online events now. We are all on Zoom a lot, which is fine when it serves a critical purpose, but not beyond that."
WtH: "Not hanging out with people in places has been detrimental to our industry. The vibe and familiarity that comes from being together in a room is difficult to replicate with Zoom."
Not hanging out with people in places has been detrimental to our industry.
Hugh Todd Freelance Creative Director & podcaster: "Yes. I think the industry thrives on its people being happy, together and in touch with each other in the real world. Be that on juries, seminars, the beach, a big fuck off yacht, or in the Gutter Bar. It needs the award shows, real life judging, the chat, the craic, what’s good, what’s bad, what work did/didn’t run. Although it does all feel slightly irrelevant at times when you consider the bigger picture of what’s happening in the world. But, if we can produce great work that can help save lives, that will help. I presume Cannes will be creating a Covid Category as we speak..."
AS: "Yes. What the forced distancing cuts out, unfortunately, are the human connections, the meetings, the chats, the spontaneous exchanges. Going back to my previous analogy, we enjoy the painting but without the beauty of the framing."
IK: "In my experience, yes. Part of my job is to attend as many of these as possible, not only in the world of advertising but also film and documentary festivals, photography exhibitions and fashion shows. I won't lie, it was nice at first to free up my evenings and have less travel days, but I miss the connectedness and curiosity these gatherings stimulate. I've asked myself many times if the budgets put into attending festivals and events can be justified, and 2020 proved to me that, yes, it can. That's not to say that I think it's probably a good thing our industry becomes less lavish and more responsible, but part of the process inspiring us to do so is to come together, celebrate the work, make new connections and be inspired by the individuals behind trailblazing projects."
Besides the general camaraderie with industry folks, I believe a lot of new business opportunities and collaborations have been lost, to the detriment of the industry.
PR: "Absolutely. There have been many attempts to replicate our staple industry events online, including networking opportunities, and, considering the circumstances, many have been effective. Lots of conferences are now visible and accessible for a much wider audience is one positive outcome! But it doesn’t truly recreate the spontaneity of in-person networking; those amazing and impromptu conversations you have that can lead to great ideas, discussions and, crucially, creativity. Those happen-chance conversations, which come so easily in-person, are an extra struggle online and remotely, if possible at all. Besides the general camaraderie with industry folks, I believe a lot of new business opportunities and collaborations have been lost, to the detriment of the industry. But I’m also confident we will bounce back and find new ways to achieve our goals, just as we have adapted to this new way of working during the last 12 months."
Do you plan on attending Cannes, or any other festivals, this year?
ES: "I normally go to Cannes twice a year for straight 8 - once for the film festival and then again in June. It was good to have a break from both. It made us do new things, like three live premieres on YouTube in as many days. Those new things were a great addition and will have to be repeated when we go back to live events. Digital Twin is the phrase that’s been coined. If we can hold a straight 8 shootout event in the cinema in Cannes in June, and it sounds like people are keen to do it, then we’re not going to be the ‘woke’ stay-at-homes. I’d love to cycle there instead of flying though!"
HT: "I am very much hoping to attend as myself and Dan Dawson are meant to be hosting a live Q&A session for our Behind the Billboard podcast. Sorry for this shameless plug. That’s probably jinxed the whole thing. But we live in hope…"
I’d much rather put my efforts into finally seeing friends and family again this summer than jetting to the south of France to watch a bunch of agency heads work out who has the most on-trend face mask.
Rik Moore, Head of Insight, Strategy & Planning, The Kite Factory: “I’d much rather put my efforts into finally seeing friends and family again this summer than jetting to the south of France to watch a bunch of agency heads work out who has the most on-trend face mask whilst playing Air BnB Top Trumps on the Croisette. That said, I’m fascinated and excited to see how the festival evolves post-pandemic: a rejuvenated return to a focussed celebration of global creativity, taking forward the best of the new behaviours we’ve adopted, and lighting the way for the industry to grow and thrive as we rebuild.”
AS: "Yes, I plan to attend, even on a virtual scale. It's an unmissable occasion to discover the best work from all over the world. And for independent players like Herezie, it’s one of the most exciting arenas in the world where we can observe, learn and plan our own moves."
IK: "Part of me wants to say YES! When Cannes cancelled its 2020 festival, it was literally the one thing that made me feel that 2020 wasn't happening. But, on the other hand, I can't escape the feeling of coming from an extremely lucky position of even considering attending Cannes this year. It would be dreamy to have this pinnacle of the year back on the agenda, but I still think 2021 will be a year where most efforts will be spent on looking inwards (at our company), truly reflecting on the lessons we learned from the year past, and deciding on how to integrate this for the road ahead."
Above [clockwise from top left]: Steve Davies, Wesley ter Haar, Hugh Todd, Jiri Bures, Ali Rez and Ine Kim.
GM: "It is still too early to say. I am sure, like for a lot of other production companies, post houses and music companies, Cannes is all about socialising and attending the parties, hosting client lunches and dinners etc - so, again, I think it all depends on where we get to with the virus and vaccinations over the next few months. As we all know, this changes daily, therefore we have to be more flexible in our approach. Above all it's a big cost that a lot of companies will not necessarily be able to spend this year. It is definitely a key fixture on our events calendar but, at the same time, a 'luxury bonus' [and] the money could be better allocated to other marketing strategies, like entering more award shows and expanding PR. Alongside representing Caviar, a big part of my Cannes Lions experience is DJing, and hosting parties like our Tropicool party. [But] with the current social distancing and Covid measures in place, I am pretty sure that side of Cannes won’t be returning this year or, if it does, it will be on a much smaller scale."
It is definitely a key fixture on our events calendar but, at the same time, a 'luxury bonus' [and] the money could be better allocated to other marketing strategies.
Becky McOwen-Banks, ECD, VaynerMedia London: “Cannes is a huge firework moment for creativity that lights up businesses and agencies around the world. It now serves as much more than a creative industry event, focussing on innovation and the effect of creativity for clients and their industries. Reluctantly, this year I won’t attend it. Much of the world will still be reeling from the effects of Covid-19 so I believe it would be short-sighted to attend an event that brings people together from around the world. It will also be the year to get the best for those of us at home, with the festival having to focus more on those unable to travel. Hopefully the creative industry and the businesses it impacts every day, will be able to gain some of the inspiration, learning and centrality remotely it usually provides in person.”
SC: "As long as it is safe and possible, we will definitely be there. It is the one week where everyone from the industry is gathered in the same place and that is not just invaluable professionally, it is an insane amount of fun. Cannot wait to be back. First round is on us."
PR: "We will be waiting until closer to the event to fully decide our involvement as an agency, but if it’s taking place we can’t imagine not being there. Cannes is at the core of our history at MassiveMusic; we started there almost 21 years ago and have held a party there every year since. I've attended for 17 years in a row so 2020 was a big hole in my calendar. Crucially, we missed uniting with our international colleagues, clients and industry friends from all over the world. I foresee a new added layer of enthusiasm to the festival this year if it goes ahead, a renewed appreciation which I think will make the event even better, and bring some great new energy to it that it might have been lacking previously."
AR: "I would love to, of course, but this will depend on where things are at the time, really. One thing that 2020 has taught us is that things can change fast, so let's be ready for all scenarios."