Ascential in buying mode as it faces showdown with agencies over Cannes Lions

Cannes Lions owner Ascential faces an interesting year with Publicis Groupe pulling out of the awards – although we can still expect some Publicis agency entries, paid for by clients and (possibly) reimbursed by their agencies – and WPP making aggressive noises about the cost of the festival.

But Ascential (formerly Emap) doesn’t just do conferences, it provides a range of data services and it’s just agreed to shell out £100m or so for Dublin-based information provider Clavis Insight which will be integrated into its US data provider One Click Retail. Ascential gets about a third of its £300m annual revenue from such services.

So it’s not all about Cannes and other such events for Ascential. Cannes Lions makes about £40m.

Ascential announced a number of changes to Cannes Lions last year, aimed at bringing down the cost and making the festival a touch more logical, but essentially it’s business as usual. And we hear that the big agency groups, including WPP, are still planning to enter the festival with the usual vast array of offerings although they’re cracking down on the number of delegates they send.

That probably won’t worry Ascential too much as, increasingly, delegates and the number of companies who hire big boats for the festivities are coming from the media sector, especially ad tech companies. The agencies are chiefly there for the entertainment.

This may change, of course, as the agency holding companies report their end of year results which may result in another round of cost cutting if they still find growth hard to come by. But such moves, if they involve the awards circus, will drive a further rift between the holding companies and their increasingly embattled agencies.

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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.
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