Was this year’s Cannes Lions a virtual success? Depends who you ask

Cannes Lions, Travis Scott concert in Fortnite
Epic Games' "Astronomical" Travis Scott event won the Cannes Lions' Digital Craft Grand Prix.

Cannes Lions is no longer exclusively the domain of very well-heeled and well-connected VIPs in advertising. The five-day awards festival celebrates creative work in the ad industry and related fields. Virtual this year, it was available to the whole world (for a price), with daily YouTube broadcasts from locales across the globe.

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is hosted by Lions. The decades-old organization focused on creativity was acquired by the data and information company Ascential in 2004. The group canceled last year’s awards festivities but returned this year from June 21 to 25 in a virtual format.

Cannes off the Croisette,” as AdAge called it seemed to rankle some and work well for others.

Ad industry leaders told Adweek that the IRL Cannes experience is irreplaceable. However, they appreciated the accessibility of the virtual festival and the “greater transparency” it provided.

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But other executives said that the endless content made the experience less than compelling, AdAge reported. There were also grumblings about technical glitches in both the live and pre-recorded segments, the latter of which is pretty hard to excuse.

Then, the winners of each awards category (all 28 of them) were announced during 90-minute “Daily Award Shows.” Those broadcasts were complemented by “Debrief” sessions that analyzed the work and featured conversations with the winners, as well as a daily presentation and wrap-up, according to Variety.

Sponsors built interactive spaces that allowed them to engage with guests through branded avatars.

Plus a host of virtual experiences including performances, Q&A’s, keynotes and live networking. Actors Gal Gadot and Bryce Dallas Howard, as well as musicians Wyclef Jean and Ed Sheeran, and Formula One driver Fernando Alonso were among the boldfaced names in the lineup.

For a very select and lucky vaccinated few (around 200), there was an invite-only in-person experience at the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. MediaLink hosted the luncheon followed by presentations and networking. Then, the afternoon topped off with a performance from the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl.

This year, notable XP Lion winners included Epic Games’ “Astronomical” Travis Scott event. The concert took place within the Fortnite game last year and drew 28 million day-of viewers. Plus tons of merch. Burger King’s “Stevenage Challenge,” an activation developed by the agency David, put the burger booster’s logo on players shirts in the wildly popular EA FIFA 20 video game. Gaming platforms clearly connect brands to the younger generations. Here is the list of all of the winners.

“Despite remote work, the work suggests much closer collaboration between agencies and clients to create braver and more effective creative,” Chaka Sobhani, global chief creative officer of Leo Burnett, told Adweek.

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