Is Cannes coming to New York?
With France imposing a stringent lockdown a little more than two months before the annual International Festival of Creativity, it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that an on-the-ground event will be possible in Cannes. But an alternative is said to be in the works: MediaLink is organizing a live event tied to the International Festival of Creativity in New York City.
Such a plan could make sense, given that the majority of U.S. attendees often are from New York. And the city’s Mayor Bill DiBlasio has said that more than 4 million doses of vaccine have been given out in the city. According to an ABC News report, Dr. Jay Varma, medical advisor to the mayor, noted at a recent news conference that he is hopeful the city "can be completely out of this within six to eight weeks of very aggressive vaccination.”
According to three people familiar with the situation, MediaLink is in discussions with The Whitney Museum of American Art to host its event, which will be held in partnership with its owner Ascential, which runs the Cannes Lions. Michael Kassan, CEO of MediaLink, declined to comment. Kassan is listed on the Whitney's board of trustees on the museum's website.
A spokeswoman for the Cannes Lions, when asked if the in-person event may be canceled in France, said only that “We are currently in communications with the French authorities and are awaiting more data from them about the future of events in France beyond the current lockdown restrictions. We will update as soon as we have more information.”
Asked about the possibility of a New York event, she said: "We don't have any comment around an associated event in New York."
The pandemic, however, is forcing some adjustments for the Lions in that judging will be conducted remotely, said a person familiar with the process. Cannes is hoping for a “distributed” model, in which portions of the festival will be live and some will be virtual come June 21-25.
As earlier reported, Ascential, the owner of Cannes Lions, is under keen financial pressure to pull off the festival, having recorded a huge loss for 2020 after being forced to cancel last year’s event due to the pandemic. Its revenue fell 31% to £264 million ($367 million) last year, causing its operating profit to plunge from £2 million in 2019 to a loss of £167 million ($232 million) for 2020. Sales at its marketing division fell 60% after the cancellation of Cannes Lions.
Contributing: Alexandra Jardine