LONDON — The annual Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity has been cancelled completely, just two weeks after its organisers said it would be moved from its usual spot in June to new contingency dates in October.

The move comes as a number of holding groups had already expressed concerns about budgets, given the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. WPP, for example, told shareholders last week it was “stopping discretionary costs, including travel and hotels and the costs of award shows,” as part of its cost-cutting measures during the crisis, and it was thought that Omnicom and IPG were also hesitant about committing to the Festival until nearer the rescheduled October dates.

Cannes Lions had earlier planned to still judge entries and present awards during 2020, but in a statement on Friday, the organiser said it had decided to cancel the Festival entirely: “As the impact from COVID-19 continues to be felt across the world on consumers and our customers across the marketing, creative and media industries, it has become clear to us our customers’ priorities have shifted to the need to protect people, to serve consumers with essential items and to focus on preserving companies, society and economies.

“Our difficult decision follows in-depth consultations with our partners and customers and reflects the unprecedented societal, health and economic challenges currently facing the world, as well as our desire to remove any uncertainty about the running of the awards and event for our partners and customers.”

Cannes Lions chairman Philip Thomas commented: Cannes Lions at its core has always been about creativity and the Lions. We realise that the creative community has other challenges to face, and simply isn’t in a position to put forward the work that will set the benchmark. The marketing and creative industries, in common with so many others, are currently in turmoil, and it’s clear that we can play our small part by removing all speculation about the Festival this year.”

Managing director Simon Cook added: “We all look ahead to a more positive time – right now, Cannes Lions will continue to bring the global creative community together and provide inspiration where we can find it. Our recent call for inspirational creative stories from around the world has already garnered hundreds of accounts of our community uniting and showing progress in this crisis. We believe firmly that the Lions continue to offer valuable recognition to that community and we look forward to celebrating and honouring the work in 2021, when the world will hopefully feel more stable, and our community can give their work the focus it deserves.”

Responding to the cancellation, Gail Heimann, global president and CEO at long-time Festival supporter and Lion winner Weber Shandwick, told PRovoke: “Cannes brings together our entire creative community in celebration of the most inspiring, provocative and effective work across our industry. But as we all face unprecedented, sometimes unimaginable challenges, we need to focus on innovative ways to support our teams, our clients and our communities in the face of uncertainty.

“When we come together again in Cannes in 2021, I look forward to celebrating a historic body of work that demonstrates the power of our collective creativity to make a meaningful difference.”

London-based consumer PR agency Taylor Herring is also a regular attendee and winner at Cannes Lions. Co-founder James Herring told PRovoke it was “sad news but entirely understandable.” He said: “The event is all about the celebration of great creative work but it would feel wholly wrong to be popping the champagne corks in a year when lives and jobs are being lost.”

At Hotwire, one of the official partners for the PR industry’s [email protected] event, which will now run next year, group chief development officer Andy West said he would have been happy for the Festival to go ahead in October: “There would have been so much to talk about in terms of how brands have handled the crisis, the new order of collaboration, and what next for the industry. It would have been cathartic — and we can celebrate creativity at any time of year — but of course there is the obvious drawback of cost.”

The next edition of the Festival will now run from 21-25 June, 2021. At the time of writing, Cannes Lions had not responded to request for comment on whether groups and agencies that had already made payments towards award entries and official partnerships will be reimbursed, or whether fees and contracts will roll over to 2021.