Cannes Reconsiders What Indie Means

After Including Holding Company-Owned Shops, Ad Fest Recants

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NEW YORK ( -- So, it won't be called The Crispin after all.

After initiating a new award for independent agencies earlier this month with criteria that would have awarded decidedly non-independent agencies, the leadership of the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival backtracked today, setting down a solid definition of what it takes to be independent.

Citing "industry feedback," festival organizers say the changes are an attempt to stay true to the spirit of the award.

"We had one attempt at it, and frankly, we got it wrong," said Cannes Lions CEO Philip Thomas. "We've now gone with our original instincts and made this for the people that are genuinely independent and totally owned by their own management."

Now, according to the festival, an indie is an agency owned by management or independent shareholders that is "not associated with any holding company or listed entity."

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This takes holding-company-associated powerhouses such as Crispin Porter & Bogusky and Bartle Bogle Hegarty out of the running, as the original wording excluded agencies from only the seven largest holding companies (by revenue) and allowed agencies owned by MDC Partners, like Crispin, to be classified as indies. Bartle Bogle is majority-owned by its partners, but Publicis Groupe has a 49% stake, rendering the shop ineligible for the award under the new definition.

"The original problem was that we tried to finesse it," said Mr. Thomas. "When you start looking at this, its very, very complicated."

Thomas cited agencies such as Wieden & Kennedy, Mother, Germany's Jung von Matt, Spain's Shackleton, and Mortierbrigade from Belgium as agencies that have done well in the past and are examples of independent agencies under the new rules.

The Independent Agency of the Year award is scored based on the type and number of Lions won and shortlist mentions garnered; it would be expected that this will boost entries from smaller agencies long eclipsed for agency of the year honors by large networks and holding company-backed shops.

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