Global recession has taken its toll of the ad jamboree to end all ad jamborees – the Cannes International Advertising Festival. Or maybe ad folk are simply reluctant to risk the hazards of international travel right now.

Whichever, festival organizers report bookings are twenty percent down on last year’s main event; while plans for a three-day additional direct marketing shindig have been cancelled following a tsunami of apathy.

Instead, the much-hyped Lions Direct will be merged into the already congested main festival bill. Cannes new chief executive Franz Prenner claims that the direct event was axed because direct marketers preferred to participate in the main happening.

“Every [dm] network asked us why we didn’t put the direct event within the main week of Cannes," he said. “They're new delegates, and they've never been to Cannes before.”

But many direct marketers are miffed at the cancellation and the logistic difficulties this poses – in particular the need for direct marketing and interactive jury members to start work five days sooner.

Complains direct jury member Carla Hendra, also president of OgilvyOne North America, who has just pulled out of the judging: “I'm really upset because [the date] changed, and so I have a huge conflict with a client [meeting].”

USA Today marketing manager Susan Lilley, who also serves as the festival’s stateside representative, explains the delegate shortfall – 20% down on the usual 9,000: “Rather than taking ten people, agencies are taking five. We won't have the large agency groups that got to go [in the past].

As to the melding of the dm and main events, Lilley says: “There are monumental logistics – juries, travel schedules, space to put on direct seminars in the same time frame.”

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff