Cannes Lions sees record entries from Mena

CEO Philip Thomas (SUPPLIED)

A record number of entries from the Middle East and North Africa region have been entered into the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival – the world's premier advertising festival and awards ceremony.

A total of 616 entries from the Mena region have been submitted, up significantly on last year's 440. The biggest contributor remains the UAE, with 370 examples of advertising entered compared to 301 in 2007.

The festival, which takes place in Cannes, France, between June 15 and 21, recognises excellence in global advertising and awards gold, silver and bronze Lions in categories such as film, press, outdoor, integrated and cyber advertising. Grand prixs are also awarded for the most outstanding work.

This year, global entries have also reached new heights, with more than 28,000 from 85 countries. Much of that growth is down to new categories such as design and promo; but also to the strength of emerging markets such as the Middle East, China and India.

"We are seeing strong growth right across the categories and right across the world," said Philip Thomas, the festival's CEO. "This is the fifth year in a row that we have seen record entries into Cannes, another indication that agencies and clients across the world are embracing creativity and wishing to showcase their work at a global level at the festival."

The number of entries from other Gulf states has grown enormously. Last year Qatar managed only two entries, but has submitted 71 this year, most of them no doubt from Fortune Promoseven Doha, which won a string of awards at the Dubai Lynx Awards earlier this year, including the print grand prix for its work for EA Games' Medal of Honor.

Other significant increases include 48 from Kuwait (up from 13 last year) and 39 from Saudi Arabia (up from 24 in 2007).

However, a fall in the number of entries has occurred in Bahrain (down from five to one); Egypt (down from 26 to 23); and Lebanon (down from 68 to 51). There are also two entries from Iran, which is considerably better than its zero last year.

The biggest number of entries from the region was in the press category, with the UAE submitting 159 entries, compared with 139 last year. The second most popular is outdoor advertising, with 94 entries from the UAE (55 last year). Winning a gold Lions is the equivalent to winning an Oscar, and so far only two agencies in the Middle East have achieved that distinction – Tonic Communications in 2005, and Wunderman in 2006. Team Y&R won silver in 2006, but last year there were no winners from the region.