This week’s news the Cannes Lions Festival is set to take place in the live environment in June came as something of a surprise to the global ad industry as they watched CES in the virtual space and prepare for a similar version of SXSW. Yes, it’s not happening until June, but can we realistically see the world changing that quickly and people, nevermind businesses, feeling comfortable with heading to an event whose beating heart is networking at close quarters?
Don’t get me wrong as someone who produces events in the same sector and who was editor of Event magazine for ten years, I am a huge advocate of the live events space and want to believe live events will be back up and running by early summer, but in our hearts of hearts can we genuinely see it happening? I really hope we can, but if the last 12 months has taught us anything it’s this pandemic has no regard for rules, regulations or people.
Yes, there is a vaccine being implemented in some countries around the globe, but the likelihood of everyone having received it by June is pretty slim meaning bringing hundreds of thousands of people together for a networking event, which for at least 80% of the audience involves being slightly inebriated for long periods of time, is a dream scenario of Covid to do its worst.
I love nothing more than being brave, bold and an eternal optimist, but this is certainly up there as one of the most daring decisions and I hoping it does come off as the value of meeting face to face from both a mental and businesswise perspective, should never be underestimated and has certainly been missed over the last 12 months.
In part this decision is bold because there are a lot moving parts, all of which can shift from second to second. Firstly, there is the issue of rules and regulations and whether France will allow hundreds of thousands of people – with a significant influx from the UK – enter the country, at a time when they will hopefully have got their own outbreak under control and their own population are starting to resume normal life. Would they risk jeopardising this?
Secondly will businesses let their staff head to an event where the term social distancing doesn’t and won’t work after a couple of glasses of Rose and the run the risk of their employees becoming ill, or worse still passing it on to their families? More pertinent is whether – after lockdowns – mindsets have changed and the thought of travelling to another country for work is a risk they are willing to take, particularly if they end up having to quarantine for 10 days or more on arrival or on returning. Will people be keen to get on a flight for more than eight hours to travel to a work event when – and rightly so – they are too scared to use their own public transport methods for 30-minute journeys in their own countries for fear of catching the virus.
Thirdly and most importantly can we see the regular sponsors lavishly spending their usual budgets? For global agency networks spending on a live event less than 12 months after making significant redundancies around the world, seems quite insensitive while the majority of adtech companies are not allowing staff to attend live events until June and July in their own countries, nevermind in a different one.
Finally – and I am only too aware of this from our own business –creating an event such as Cannes take lots of forward planning and lots of upfront costs and after the cancellation of 2020 the reality is the organisers are probably tied in to having the spaces they usually book for June to avoid having to pay last years venue hire costs, so if it doesn’t go ahead the costs could be unimaginable, and not a position the organisers want to be in.EveWhatever happens it is certainly an interesting story to watch develop over the coming weeks and you cannot but admire the bravery of the organisers for putting their flag in the ground and going for it. As a huge fan of the event from both a social and a business perspective, it would be a massive loss if it cannot go ahead this year and I am personally rooting for it, but I cannot help thinking it’s going to take some form of miracle to happen in the live space. Harbouring the thought a live Cannes might happen is a welcome break from the monotony of working from home and the overpowering groundhog day feeling. Hopefully the organisers can pull it off.