Cannes canceled: Lions creative ad festival, including Lions Health, called off amid COVID-19 tumult

Flags outside Cannes Palais II at Cannes Lions Health 2019
The Cannes Lions Health awards and event are canceled for 2020 amid turmoil caused by COVID-19. (Beth Snyder Bulik)

The Cannes Lions canceled its advertising creativity conference for 2020 after media reports that many large ad agencies planned to opt out or were seriously considering it.

While a virtual festival was reportedly considered, organizers decided to close the show for the year and look ahead to the next one in June 2021. Cannes Lions, which includes Lions Health specific to the pharma and healthcare industry, initially postponed the conference and awards show two week ago.

Friday, organizers said the impact from COVID-19 on the marketing, media and creative industries required the agencies’ attention elsewhere.

“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,” the hosts said in a news release.

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The event, begun in the 1950s, draws more than 10,000 people from ad agencies and brand marketers from 90 countries around the world to the south of France for a week. Lions Health, the pharma and healthcare track established in 2014, runs for the first two days of the event.

The Cannes Lions cancellation joins scores of other professional and medical conferences called off amid COVID-19 travel restrictions, financial pressures and attendee considerations.