Cannes ad festival restricts super yachts to avoid ‘excess of celebration’

‘It was like Club 18-30 down there,’ said organiser of Lions event

Passes for Cannes Lions festival can cost as much as €5,215 per person. Photograph: iStock

Passes for Cannes Lions festival can cost as much as €5,215 per person. Photograph: iStock


Organisers of this year’s Cannes Lions advertising festival are introducing new restrictions on super yachts entering the Cote d’Azur port as part of a wider crackdown on what they call “inappropriate” and “distasteful” behaviour during the week-long event.

In a move likely to be welcomed by some ad and media executives who have been calling for tighter controls on Cannes’ party culture, the event’s owners Ascential have struck a deal with the city’s authorities to “privatise” part of the harbour for the first time in the festival’s 64-year history.

Duncan Painter, chief executive of Ascential, said last year there was “an excess of celebration” on boats in the harbour, which was “not in line with the festival’s brand”.

Mr Painter pointed to two super yachts hired by the Daily Mail group as an example of the “distasteful” behaviour he said his customers had asked him to rein in.

Daily Mail yachts

“It was like Club 18-30 down there,” said Mr Painter, referring to the Mail’s hired yachts. “They ran a 24/7 party. That is not what we wanted at our event. Cannes is about the work and the quality of creativity. We want the dignity and style that reflects the industry we are in.”

Those looking to rent a yacht and moor it at the Jetee Albert Edouard, next to the city’s Palais de Festivals, to entertain guests and clients will now be required to buy an official Lions festival pass for the boat as well as the number of people on board. The new rules will also require guests to buy a pass or register with the organisers to gain access to some of the city’s top hotels.

Passes for the festival, which starts later this month and will this year feature star speakers such as the actress Dame Helen Mirren and Hollywood director Ron Howard, can cost as much as €5,215 per person.

The Daily Mail’s boat parties have been one of the big attractions at Cannes Lions in the past three years with the reality TV star Kim Kardashian and the singer Sting among a number of A-list celebrities used to help promote the group’s newspapers and its website Mail Online with advertisers.

But the company said it had decided to take a break this year.

“No doubt we will be sorely missed,” the Daily Mail said. “But we are extremely happy with the wisdom of our decision not to invest in the festival this year.”

In common with all newspaper publishers, DMGT, the Mail’s parent company, has been hit by a sharp decline in print advertising revenues.

Print advertising

Last week, the company announced that print advertising at the Mail titles had fallen 12 per cent in the six months to the end of March although online advertising had jumped by 19 per cent over the same period.

This year’s festival was always likely to be a more sober affair with the advertising industry under growing pressure as multi-nationals such as Procter & Gamble slash their ad budgets and agencies try to come to terms with the growing power of technology groups like Google and Facebook.

Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP chief executive, hinted last year that the world’s biggest advertising group might rethink its approach to Cannes.

“Along with the Effies [industry awards], Cannes remains the most important celebration and recognition of what we do,” Sir Martin said. “But I don’t think the industry does itself any favours by overspending at the festival.”

Mr Painter said that the new measures had also been introduced to help ensure the safety of the 30,000-plus guests who regularly descended on Cannes for the Lions festival.

But he added that concerns over the state of the ad business were also a factor. “Cannes is to celebrate,” he said. “But when we see the level of excess we saw last year it’s just inappropriate with where the industry is right now.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017