The ad industry's biggest festival had gotten too big. Cannes Lions dragged out over an entire week, cost companies thousands of dollars to send even a single employee, and offered so many awards that one piece of work alone could win dozens. Then, last year, the problems amped up: Publicis Groupe put a stake in the sand and announced that it would stay home in 2018—to no shortage of executive schadenfreude.

Now the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity returns, with fewer days on the schedule, cheaper passes and fewer awards subcategories. Veteran attendees are optimistic, even if the beach will still be covered in branded build-outs and nobody thinks the allure of the early years will return.

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