And are the authorities doing enough to solve the problems?
Recently, the Cannes Lions authorities found themselves in the midst of controversy, after networks like Publicis and WPP - bossman Sir Martin Sorrell has been very vocal about his displeasure - took issue with the overall cost of being associated with the event.
So, in light of the recent declaration of the folks at Cannes to re-look the way they run the annual International Festival of Creativity, we asked a few agency bigwigs the following questions:
What do you think the problem was? Have they done enough to solve them? Does this call for a discussion beyond Cannes? Is there a fundamental problem in the way global award shows are run?
Santosh Padhi, co-founder and chief creative officer, Taproot Dentsu
If you dig deep you'll see many problems. They have tried and solved a few.
I've never agreed with their reservation system. If you are positioning yourself as a creative award show, then get the most deserving minds rather than have 'network quota', 'independent agency quota', 'female quota', etc.
Over the last couple of years we witnessed some pathetic juries across the globe judging categories they are clueless about.
I'm glad to see the points system being altered. As per the previous system, an agency that gets two bronze awards and five 'finalist' mentions (total 11 points) is greater than an agency picking up a Grand Prix (10 points) - that was ridiculous and encouraged people to enter mediocre work which was more quantity, not quality, focused.
The quality of speakers or topics has dipped. Most of them are not inspiring at all. Why? Because there are too many paid slots.
Every single award show in the world invites the jury and takes care of their travel and stay; but Cannes doesn't care about how you travel. You pay for your own travel. Juries are thrown out of the hotel as soon as they are done with their judging... It's not like the jurors or the agencies they belong to cannot afford it; it's about respect. Why can't they use the money they get through entry fees here?
Well, they have addressed some of the problems that will make them appear less business-focused. If they address the rest, they will be seen as a more creative and industry friendly show.
Awards are important if the intention behind the show is clear. Without years of awards I feel we would be less creative, less competitive. Awards are like advertisements for an agency. Big, money-minded networks are not stupid to put tons of money behind awards... they do so because awards are significant.
I'm glad under-30 professionals are given special consideration.
Russell Barrett, chief creative officer and managing partner, BBH India
To my mind, the problems were cost and clarity.
One needed a doctorate in Award Entries to figure out the newer sub-categories and what qualified. I've even been on calls with officials from Cannes who themselves were a little confused. Then after you stumbled through all the potential categories and looked at what it was going to cost you, you'd have an aneurysm. This is still well before you actually arrived in Cannes. That's when the costs of everything from a bottle of water to the price of wi-fi in your hotel would cause that aneurysm to call in its big brother. I think the festival authorities have understood this and made several changes to help make things simpler and more affordable.
Award shows are being run like large businesses and that is always going to be a problem. Of course an award show should pay for itself, and more, but I don't think you can ever lose focus of your reason for existence - the work. When that gets compromised, or shafted in any way, it will lead to the beginning of the end of that show. We've seen it happen so many times at local shows and at the international level too. The creative work is the only reason for you to exist; you have to ensure it's the only thing that's celebrated.
Bobby Pawar, managing director and chief creative officer, Publicis South Asia
The problem was there was more than one. The festival had lost its focus. The number of categories mushroomed every year. And some of them were no longer relevant. Then there is the cost of participating. The sticker shock of everything from entry fees and hotel rates, to the price of a rose grew greater.
It's a beginning. Sounds like a good one, but this can't be a one-time deal. The festival must evolve so that it always remains a great showcase for the importance of great thinking and execution for brands.
Cannes Lions is a pretty unique festival, so its worries are peculiar to it. On the whole, there seem to be too many award shows, with very little separating one from the other. The only reason to enter all of them is to bolster your awards tally. It's a sad day when the celebration of creativity comes down to counting numbers.
Pratap Bose, chairman and co-founder, The Social Street
The entry fees have been exorbitant. Small and independent agencies might send 10-20 entries because that's all they can afford; larger agencies might send 50-100 entries. Cannes is so expensive, not only from an entry perspective but also from the point of view of just going to the festival. Last year, sending one person from an agency cost about seven lakh rupees. That's a lot of pressure on large holding companies and they've all expressed their dissatisfaction.
One also needs to think of the benefit of spending that kind of money, because it doesn't translate into business; it just fuels a few egos. It's a big amount just for a frivolous, feel-good factor. It may add fluff to the feathers of small agencies but larger ones like Ogilvy or McCann don't really need that.
I guess they (Cannes authorities) realised that the moment of truth is now. They felt they had to do something about it. But I feel these are largely cosmetic changes, except for the fact that they decreased the delegate pass fee. But they could have done much more... because what really pinches people is the entry fee. And they haven't given any indication on that front.
Josy Paul, chairman and chief creative officer, BBDO
The leaders of international agency networks, independent agencies and holding companies felt it was a good time to review and discuss the role of global award shows, and what's best for the industry. This is a response to their sensitive, practical and useful feedback.
It's a step in the right direction. It's very encouraging to see powerful and influential award shows willing to change and re-arrange themselves to fit the mood of the times. The response time is commendable.
International award shows like Cannes shine the torch on creative excellence. It's important to the business of ideas, because it democratises the world of creativity. It shows that great ideas have no geography.