The Insights Blog

Jumping the Shark at Cannes

Jumping the Shark at Cannes

Jumping the Shark at Cannes

Cannes has arrived. And if you or your team are attending, your T&E budget may never be the same! 

Of course, The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is the most prestigious advertising awards show in the world. The history is amazing and the work awarded often incredibly compelling. 

And often there are presentations worthy of every marketer’s attention and interest.

Just a few of the fantastic presentations for this year’s attendees include Les Binet and Karen Nelson Field discussing creative effectiveness and Orlando Wood and Sir John Hegarty talking about The Next Creative Revolution. Adam Morgan and Jon Evans will discuss The Extraordinary Cost of Being Dull.

Must see presentations.

Yet, the excesses of Cannes are hitting historical highs, potentially turning a Festival of Creativity into a circus of excess, distracting from the awards and the craft.

What else is happening at Cannes? Once you’ve chucked out $4k or more for your ticket, paid an absurd airfare and unsightly hotel bill, and dropped a hundred on a drink or two, you’ll see agencies, vendors and brands paying top dollar to brand everything from yachts and piers (yes, piers) to bicycles and napkins.

One major Holdco proudly proclaimed their “beach” was using the “largest mobile construction crane in France” to prepare. I hope their parents and shareholders are proud of them!

As reported by Ad Age’s Garrett Sloane, the cost of sponsorships and general excess include:

Plus, there will be influencers.


Really, that will be a thing. And it will be likely as annoying as it sounds.

And… at this advertising awards festival there will also be appearances from…

John Legend


The Kelce brothers

Myles Garrett

JoJo Watkins

Draymond Green

DeAndre Hopkins

Tyreze Mazey

Justin Reid

And the list goes on, and on…

And a different kind of celebrity – an international marketing celebrity – Mark Ritson will be there.

He’ll deliver a talk, which undoubtedly will be captivating.

Why will he be there? A huge client wrote him a huge check.

Mark famously wrote the column below a few years ago:

mark ritson

Here’s the rub: while there will be fantastic presentations and much to learn, almost all of the content will be available to the public right away. Want to know what Les and Karen and Orlando and Mark talk about? Wait a week.

So, my plea is simple: please stop the excess. Make Cannes more about the work and the knowledge and more affordable to the marketing masses. Stop the absurd levels of sponsorship that appeal more to the sponsors’ egos than their business results. Lionize the creativity and innovation more than the celebrities and extravagance. Cut a few less staff and spend a bit less on the “beach” at Cannes.

Remember, in most cases this is not the executive’s money that is being spent, but their company’s. Treat it like it is precious, because it is.

Put a focus squarely back on the awards and education.

Let’s stop turning the Cannes Lions into the Caligula Lions.

Steve Boehler, founder, and partner at Mercer Island Group has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Ulta Beauty, Microsoft, UScellular, Nintendo, Kaiser Permanente, Holland America Line, Stop & Shop, Qualcomm, Brooks Running, and numerous others. He founded MIG after serving as a division president in a Fortune 100 when he was only 32. Earlier in his career, Steve Boehler cut his teeth with a decade in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble, leading brands like Tide, Pringles, and Jif.