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From Cannes to the Isle of Man - is it time to refocus the annual festival of creativity?

The Isle of Man. It rhymes with Cannes – sort of. It’s surrounded by water and has lots of boats. There are two cinemas and a “state of the art" conference venue. Could the Isle of Man be the perfect location to host an altogether more focused festival of creativity? Probably not. But this week WPP founder and CEO Sir Martin Sorrell was reported as saying, “Cannes in June is not necessarily the right place and time for it. I think it can be done differently and it can be done better.” He went on to say, “Cannes has got to be rethought big time and repositioned. Some of it is diversionary at best, unacceptable at worst." I couldn’t agree more.

I’ve been regularly attending the festival for more than a decade. In all those years, my favorite year was 2009. Not because we won our first Grand Prix that year, but because (in the depths of the great recession) the festival was smaller. It was more intimate, but more importantly it was more focused.

The essence of Marketing is about making focused choices. Which customer segment will we target? Which insight will we try to address? What one thing do we want to be famous for? How will we consistently deliver that one thing?

A good marketer knows that his or her brand cannot be all things to all people. And yet that is exactly what the Cannes Lions has increasingly been trying to do.

As a result, the Cannes Lions have become a bit of a beast. There are too many categories, too many venues, and frankly too many people. It’s difficult to navigate the many stages of content, let alone secure a seat in any of them. It’s difficult to know where to enter your work, and who wants to endure six different multiple-hour award ceremonies in a single week?

The great irony in all of this is that the coveted Lion statues have historically been awarded to the brands who can tell a single-minded, simple story in a remarkable way. In its current format, the Cannes Lions festival wouldn’t even make its own short list.

Luckily, the organizers have already announced they are setting up an advisory committee "to help shape the future of the festival." I’m glad this group will include prominent Marketing executives like P&G’s Marc Pritchard and Unilever’s Keith Weed, who can leverage their Marketing expertise to help bring focus back to the festival.

When they do, I look forward to another decade of attending the Cannes Lions…even if they do take place in the Isle of Man.

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