Cannes Lions’ revenue declined by 8% last year following Publicis Groupe’s boycott of the event and owner Ascential refining its awards structure.

In its annual results, Ascential said the volume of Cannes awards entries declined by 21% after Publicis’ withdrawal and the retirement of some sub-categories. Ascential said new Lions such as Social & Influencer and Brand Experience & Activation made up for “long-established declines” in Print and Outdoor.

Publicis’ absence from the festival hit delegate revenue in 2018, as did reduced attendance from other holding companies, as well as the move to a single, five-day entry pass.

Ascential said Cannes Lions’ overall revenue mix continued to move away from advertising holding companies and towards brands, media platforms, and consultancies.

Partnerships and digital revenue at Cannes Lions performed strongly, growing 27% year-on-year, driven by new digital passes and consultancy services, such as the Creative Leadership program for brands.

Revenue at MediaLink, the Michael Kassan-fronted marketing consultancy that Ascential bought in February 2017, declined 7% year-on-year, with Ascential attributing this to ongoing strategic changes to the business.

MediaLink, whose four revenue streams are retainers, projects, executive search, and events, has made a deliberate shift towards more brand-led work, and revenue from digital publishers and ad tech businesses has fallen.

Overall, the marketing segment reported revenue of $152 million (£116.3 million), an organic revenue decline of 8% and down 6% on a pro forma basis.

“We have taken action to return our marketing segment to growth in 2019, following the successful reset of Cannes Lions in 2018 and the realignment of MediaLink to focus on large brand reviews and projects,” said Duncan Painter, chief executive of Ascential. “We remain well-placed to enhance our market leadership in 2019 and to pursue our medium-term target of double-digit growth.”

Ascential’s revenue from continuing operations was $455.5 million (£348.5 million), up 6.3% on an organic basis.

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