Just when you thought the Cannes Lions ad fest couldn't think of any more categories in which to dole out awards, it announced another newbie: the holding company of the year.
The award will be presented for the first time at the 2011 International Advertising Festival in June, and means that it's not only agencies that will be feted each summer in the south of France; the likes of Omnicom Group, WPP, Interpublic Group of Cos., Aegis, Publicis Groupe, Havas andMDC Partners are now also eligible to earn their own award.
How does it work? Any agency that's owned 20% or more by a holding company will contribute points to the award across all categories, for shortlisted as well as winning entries in the competition. A holding company that owns lots of agencies that submit many entries with Lion potential would stand to benefit, so some would think Omnicom will win every year -- which wouldn't be too exciting -- because BBDO, DDB and TBWA are usually the top-ranked networks.
We wondered if because independent agencies were granted their own award two years ago, holding companies requested to have their own segment to shine in at Cannes. But Philip Thomas, the festival's CEO, said that was not the case: "They didn't ask for it, but they all have been very happy that we're standardizing it."
Asked to explain the reasoning for the new category, Mr. Thomas said it was largely a matter of consistency.
"The issue is that the holding companies were adding up the points in their own ways, so all the different holding companies were announcing how they did in Cannes, but there was no consistency," Mr. Thomas told Ad Age via email. "All we're saying is that from now on, we will add up the points using our own system and that will be the official position. The way that we calculate things like Agency of the Year, Network of the Year and now Holding Company of the Year has been honed over the years to represent what we consider fair. So, for instance, one holding company might add up their points using a system like ours (one [point] for a shortlist etc.) while another just counts the number of Lions it won. So claims were made that were not consistent."
When left to add up their own prizes, agencies have tended to indulge in creative math, so the festival organizers have a point.
The festival will tally points from the film, print, outdoor, cyber, radio, design, promotion and activation, film craft, titanium and integrated, media, direct, PR and creative efectiveness categories. The points count for different values on a sliding scale; the most will be contributed by Grand Prix awards, followed by Titanium and Creative Effectiveness Lions (another new category for 2011) and then in decreasing value from a Gold Llion to a shortlist position. There's no cap on the number of shortlist points that can count towards a holding company's award, but if an entry is shortlisted and then goes on to win an award, the shortlist point will no longer count.
Cannes has also changed the rules around its agency of the year award, which will now also include points won in cyber, titanium and integrated Lions categories. That means the interactive agency of the year award will no longer exist. That's a blow for CP&B, winner for three of the last five years, as the agency announced with a release on PRNewswire after last year's festival. Lions are good, but the agency of the year designations are headline grabbers.