Overall Attendance Down 20% for Next Month's Ad Festival

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NEW YORK ( -- With attendance down about 20% for next month's ad festival in Cannes, the International Advertising Festival is scrapping plans to do a separate three-day direct marketing show and will instead incorporate the first Cannes Lions Direct into the already-crowded Cannes Lions festival week starting June 16.

The heavily promoted Lions Direct event was scheduled to begin Sunday, June 23, and end with an awards show on Tuesday, June 25. The Cyber competition was also slated to move into the new three-day period.

Franz Prenner, the Cannes festival's new CEO, said the festival was reorganized in response to the direct marketing industry's desire to participate in the main festival and the extra hotel rooms available due to fewer delegates.

"Every [direct marketing] network asked us why we didn't put the direct event within the main week of Cannes," he said. "They're new delegates, and they've never been to Cannes before."

Logistical nightmares
However, the massive

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rescheduling will create logistical nightmares for some. For instance, the direct marketing and interactive judges must now start work five days earlier. Not all the judges will be able to make it.

"I'm really upset because [the date] changed, and so I have a huge conflict with a client [meeting]," said Carla Hendra, president of WPP Group's Ogilvy One North America. She chaired last year's Cyber jury and was asked to serve on the first Direct jury because of her past experience.

Bruce Lee, Ogilvy One North America's executive creative director, will replace Ms. Hendra.

Fears few would attend
Agency executives familiar with the Cannes festival also attributed the major last-minute change to fears that few would attend the new direct marketing event if it were held after the main festival ended. Major agencies like Wunderman, RappCollins, DraftWorldwide and OgilvyOne are presenting direct marketing seminars and want to be sure they are well-attended.

The number of direct marketing entries met the festival's expectations for the first year. Mr. Prenner said entries are still being processed but that there are about 1,200.

Overall festival attendance, usually about 9,000, will be down about 20% this year, Mr. Prenner said. But the U.S. group, which usually numbers about 500 of the festival's 9,000 delegates, is down more than 30%.

"Rather than taking 10 people, agencies are taking five. We won't have the large agency groups that got to go [in the past]," said Susan Lilley, the marekting manager of USA Today who serves as the festival's U.S. representative.

"There are monumental logistics -- juries, travel schedules, space to put on direct seminars in the same time frame," Ms. Lilley said.

Rescheduling juries
Moving the direct marketing and interactive competitions forward involved rescheduling two juries, notifying by e-mail all the delegates registered for the direct and cyber events, slotting 10 direct marketing seminars into an already crowded week, and squeezing another awards dinner into one of the few available evenings.

Under previous CEO Romain Hatchuel, extensive research was done with direct marketing leaders and their agencies to craft the new competition. Mr. Hatchuel left in January and is now director of global new business at Havas Advertising's Euro RSCG Worldwide. His successor, Mr. Prenner, had to make the decision to make drastic changes at the last minute.

In the new schedule, the Direct and Cyber Lions will be handed out on Friday night, June 22, at the Palais des Festival. So new are the changes that it's still unclear whether the dinner will be at the Palais, too, or at one of the hotels.

Despite incorporating the direct marketing and interactive awards into the main festival period, those Lions will not count in the Agency of the Year ranking. At the final awards gala each year on Saturday night, one agency wins the coveted title based largely on total Lions won. This year, only the print and poster and the television and cinema awards will count toward Agency of the Year, Mr. Prenner said.

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