Is Cannes Lions still relevant? That’s the question occupying Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity managing director Jose Papa.

The festival has long been a Mecca for advertising types – and, increasingly, those from other industries, too.

But, last year, the Wall Street Journal reported ad agencies were cutting costs amid a downturn that was just beginning. At the time, it said WPP wanted to spend 25% less on Cannes attendance, Interpublic planned to shave 10% off its Cannes budget, while Dentsu Aegis was curtailing hiring and pay, citing “market weakness” and “clear signs of a slowdown.”

Arguably, agencies’ position has got worse since then. WPP’s share price has fallen hard in recent weeks.

So Papa is at pains to demonstrate the enduring value of attending Cannes Lions.

“For so long, there is a misconceived view that Cannes Lions is this lavish exercise for an industry that has for many years coped with excesses,” he tells Beet.TV in this video interview.

“We’re far from it. It’s truly one of the most powerful and prominent investments that anyone in the communications industry makes. The exercise of going to Cannes is transformative.”

Adweek previously reported changes made by Cannes Lions to make the festival smaller and more affordable, including:

  • The festival will run for only five days (Monday to Friday, June 18-22) instead of the usual eight days.
  • The cost of a Complete delegate pass is being cut by €900.
  • The festival will introduce nine content “tracks” that will guide all festival programming as well as the the Lions themselves, which will be grouped under the tracks.
  • Three Lions are being retired (Cyber, Integrated and Promo & Activation), while five new Lions are being added.
  • More than 120 award subcategories are being removed.

Papa tells Beet.TV: “We stand for four principles around networking, inspiration, learning and celebration. And we cater different opportunities and experiences for each one of those needs.”

He says last year’s experiment, in which attendees needed buy passes to gain access to the hotels and the yacht jettee, will not be repeated.

“Last year, yes, the hotel pass and the harbor pass they were important exercises for us even to understand who is coming and who are the people who are not engaging straight with Cannes Lions,” he said. “This year, we needed the data this year. We won’t do it again.”