The Cannes Lions festival is probably the world’s leading advertising awards competition – so, not surprisingly, it ain’t cheap. South African ad agencies and production houses will shell out a smidgeon more than R3m for their 725 entries this year, an average of R4 150/entry. Entry fees range from €325 (R3 250 for film craft lions) to €1 185 (R11 850 for creative effectiveness and Titanium lions). But that doesn’t seem to deter people, as Cannes is heading into a boom year. Entries for this year’s event, June 19-25, are at an all-time high: just under 29 000 worldwide. It’s a clear sign of returning optimism in the ad biz, as competition entries are an expensive business and usually cut when economic conditions are tough.SA’s 725 entries are at around the same level as last year and they place us 11th of 91 countries. That puts us ahead of countries such as Italy, Mexico and Argentina and in the same ballpark as Canada, Japan and Sweden.While SA famously punches above its weight, the rest of the continent is an advertising desert. Only four countries will be represented alongside SA: Egypt (with 82), Mozambique at 38, Namibia two and Nigeria one. Africa’s entire entry level from a population of 800m is less than that of Australia, which has a population of 21m.SA has entries in every one of the 13 categories, including 28 in the public relations category and four in “creative effectiveness”. Our biggest categories are press, followed by radio and outdoor. In cyber (online) – where we’ve never won a thing at Cannes – we have 29 entries. The top 10 countries by number of entries are the United States, Brazil, Germany, Britain, France, Australia, India, Spain, Japan and Sweden. Though it remains near the top of the creative heap, Britain has been slowly shifting down the volume table over recent years, displaced from second spot by Brazil some time during the past decade and now by Germany. Almost certainly, that’s due to the effects of a still-lingering recession, which has hit Britain harder than most.Cannes has steadily been increasing the number of entry categories over the past decade, partly to reflect more accurately the nature of marketing but also – probably more importantly – to increase its revenues. Each new category brings in hundreds more entries, each of which carries an entry fee – varying by category – of up to R3 000. The PR category, now in its second year, pulled 1 322 entries for a total fee income of R5,2m.