Cannes Lions’ revenue declined by 8% last year following Publicis Groupe’s abstention from the awards and owner Ascential refining its awards structure.
In its annual results, Ascential said the volume of Cannes awards entries declined by 21% after the Publicis withdrawal and the retirement of some sub-categories. Ascential said new Lions such as Social & Influencer and Brand Experience & Activation made up for "long established declines" in Print and Outdoor.
Publicis’ absence at the festival also hit delegate revenue in 2018, as did reduced attendence from other holding groups, as well as the move to a single five-day entry pass.
Ascential said Cannes Lions’ overall revenue mix continued to move away from advertising holding companies and towards brands, media platforms and consultancies.
Partnerships and digital revenue at Cannes Lions performed strongly by growing 27% year on year, driven by new digital passes and consultancy services, such as the Creative Leadership programme for brands.
Revenue at MediaLink—the Michael Kassan-fronted marketing consultancy that Ascential bought in February 2017—declined 7% year on year, with Ascential attributing this to ongoing strategic change to the business.
MediaLink—whose four revenue streams are retainers, projects, executive search and events—has made a deliberate shift towards more brand-led work, and revenue from digital publishers and adtech businesses has reduced.
Overall, the marketing segment reported revenue of £116.3 million (US$152.6 million), an organic revenue decline of 8% and down 6% on a pro forma basis. The group’s adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation fell 19.1% to £38.9 million ($51 million).
Duncan Painter, chief executive of Ascential, said: "We have taken action to return our marketing segment to growth in 2019, following the successful reset of Cannes Lions in 2018 and the realignment of MediaLink to focus on large brand reviews and projects.
"We remain well-placed to enhance our market leadership in 2019 and to pursue our medium-term target of double-digit growth."
Ascential’s revenue from continuing operations was £348.5 million ($457.3 million), up 6.3% on an organic basis.