Nearly 9,000 delegates -- up about 15% from last year's festival -- are expected to crowd into Cannes in the south of France this week. The top hotels have been overbooked for months, to the fury of many ad executives who have been turned away, and restaurant tables are already scarce.
Overall, a healthy 24.9% jump to 16,347 print ads, commercials and contenders for Cyber and Media Lions from 13,092 entries last year is a sign of a flourishing ad industry in the U.S. and abroad.
The number of online entries, a category that is soaring at award shows around the world, nearly doubled to 1,048, 308 of them from the U.S., from 582 last year.
After debate about whether to set up a separate online event, the festival is also hosting its first two-day global online forum, in a joint-venture with Jupiter Communications.
This year's two main juries, covering both commercials and print, are chaired by Marcello Serpa, creative director and co-CEO of Sao Paulo agency Almap/ BBDO. Mr. Serpa, Brazil's hottest and most respected creative director, is an affable giant whose art director's mind is reflected in most of his agency's simple but strong images.
Clients like Volkswagen and Pepsi-Cola Co. often choose to run his work in other Latin American markets, too. Almap/BBDO was named International Agency of the Year by Ad Age International in April.
Brazilians are obsessed with the Cannes festival and winning awards there, so the combination of a Brazilian jury president and the country's recovery from a devastating 40% currency devaluation last year set off a frenzy of entries, especially in the print and online categories.
"It's only natural that people are more stimulated to enter work if there's someone from their own country who can help to explain it," said Joao Daniel Tikhomiroff, president of Jodaf, one of Brazil's leading production companies and a past Cannes judge.
"It has nothing to do with Marcello Serpa," disagreed Adilson Xavier, creative VP at Giovanni FCB in Rio de Janeiro. "There's a wave of optimism. Marketers have increased their investments, telecom and dot-com accounts have entered the market, creating a new universe, and new agencies have emerged."
His own agency has entered 25 spots and 43 print ads, 50% more ads than last year.
MISSING IN ACTION
Three agencies that were big winners last year are skipping the festival this year. Sao Paulo agency DM9 DDB, which recently lost its founder and star creative director Nizan Guanaes to a dot-com, is staying away despite being the festival's most-awarded Agency of the Year for the last two years. South Africa's Network in Johannesburg and Buenos Aires hot shop Agulla & Baccetti are also absent.
That means festivalgoers won't see Argentina's most controversial campaign, a series of Agulla & Baccetti spots in which Jesus zips around in a nifty bronze Renault Clio, performing modernized versions of biblical good deeds with Mary Magdalene and others.
Although no campaigns are entering the festival hotly tipped for a Grand Prix, Gold Lions are likely for the annual crop of Volkswagen and Guinness TV and print ads from the U.K., Budweiser's frogs and lizards, and Fox TV's insights into what men are really like from the U.S., as well as Japan's Wowwow TV and an endearing spot from McDonald's Corp. in Thailand.
Few dot-com campaigns are expected to shine, although Scandinavians have hopes for spots touting gay Swedish Web site Sylvester.
com, by Hollingworth Mehrotra, Stockholm.
In a look at other categories, Cannes' Media Lions, with 502 entries, are growing more slowly than the other areas after a somewhat bumpy start last year. The U.S. failed to win a single one of the 17 Media Lions handed out in 1999, and suffered the ignominy of seeing tiny New Zealand walk off with no less than three.
Last year's jury, by awarding most of the new Media Lions to simple ideas with tiny budgets, sent the message that the big budget campaigns more common in the U.S. than other countries were not favorites to win.
For the Cyber Lions, Ogilvy Interactive has continued to churn out banner ads for IBM Corp. illustrating the company's e-business solutions for different clients. The IBM e-business banner campaign was a big factor last year, sweeping seven of the 10 Cyber Lions.
Less predictably, an independent London-based digital agency called Deepend has been a big winner so far this year at international online award shows for its U.K. Web sites for clients like Volkswagen for the New Beetle car, the Cartoon Network, Hoover Co. and London's Design Museum.
This year the Advertiser of the Year will be Sony Corp., with an award presented to President-CEO Nobuyuki Idei at the gala ceremony that closes the festival June 24.
Sony won the Grand Prix for print and poster last year with a Sony Playstation ad by TBWA Simons Palmer, London.