Advertising titans failing to spend the big bucks at Cannes Lions this year

Media company Ascential, which runs fashion show Pure London and news publication Retail Week, saw its shares sink by more than five per cent this morning after it announced a bad year for its Cannes Lions festival.

The annual event for the advertising industry failed to rake in as much money as expected this year, Ascential announced this morning, as advertising titans shrank their spending.

The news follows on the back of a scandal at industry giant WPP, and signs that other firms are trying to sober up their act. Johnny Hornby, the chief executive of advertising firm The & Partnership, said earlier this year that he was cancelling his annual yacht party at Cannes Lions in the wake of a sexism fiasco last where a departing male employee sent around an email rating the "top five" women in the office.

Read more: Advertising boss Johnny Hornby cancels yacht party saying it would be "inappropriate" after sexism scandal

"Cannes Lions is experiencing a more challenging trading environment with a lower than expected level of spend by the advertising agency holding companies," said chairman Scott Forbes in a letter to shareholders this morning.

"Realigning Cannes Lions' revenues to have a strong digital component is a core part of our plans and we are pleased with its digital product growth."

However he added that these new digital products, including The Work platform which allows communications staff to search for creative content, would not offset the lower spend.

Read more: ITV upbeat as broadcaster shrugs off advertising woes

Cannes Lions generated £65.6m in 2017. Though this year's festival doesn't take place until later this month, running from 18-22 June, already Ascential has seen that the amount advertising firms have spent on sponsorship, tickets and entering themselves into awards has shrunk.

A spokesperson for the company said this was partly because Ascential was working to make Cannes Lions "more focused". The number of awards on offer has shrunk, meaning fewer payments from firms to enter them, and the festival has been narrowed down to last just five days rather than last year's eight.

FTSE 250-listed Ascential's assurances that fintech conference Money 20/20 had delivered a "particularly strong half", and that overall trading was in line with full-year expectations, failed to prevent the shares from falling.

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