Now WPP adds to the pressure on Cannes owner Ascential

WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell and creative director John O’Keefe are putting the screws on Cannes International Festival of Creativity organiser Ascential, ostensibly to rationalise the festival, and pulling out of Ascential’s Eurobest awards despite lots of WPP people signing up for it.

This emerges from an embarrassing internal email uncovered by Adweek which seems to show the mighty holding company and its employees in a state of some disarray.

Cannes is already on the back foot, of course, following newly-installed Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun’s decision to bar all awards entries for a year, announced at this year’s festival. Cannes contributes £63m to Ascential’s coffers so a forthcoming meeting between Sorrell, O’Keefe and Ascential CEO Duncan Painter should be interesting.

Cannes has become too big for its boots but one might still question holding companies demanding changes to suit themselves, in particular Sorrell’s already expressed wish to move the festival’s timing and even location. Before advertisers and digital media companies invaded the festival – partly at Ascential’s behest – it was an agreeable holiday by the seaside for agencies and production companies (with a few awards, but most people had gone home by then) – and all the better for it. It was even better every two years in Venice, whence the Cannes Lions come from.

Painter would do well to stand up to such bullying, even if it costs.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.