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Conquering Cannes: How to make Cannes pay off by prioritizing what you do

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By Richard Draycott, Associate Editor

June 10, 2024 | 8 min read

We ask veterans of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for their hints and tips on how agencies and individuals attending for the first time can make sure it is money well spent (and that they don’t fall off their financial director’s Christmas card list).

Cannes

Can agencies make Cannes pay?

You’ve convinced the MD you can make it pay. The eye-wateringly expensive flights are booked and the extortionate hotel room is reserved. You’re heading to Cannes Lions. While there will be thousands of Cannes veterans out there in 2024, there’ll be a good smattering of Cannes virgins, too, experiencing it for the first time. It’s a hefty investment for any agency to send its people to Cannes to network, meet with current and potential clients, celebrate the creative work and absorb the creative vibe, attending events, parties and brand experiences.

In Part 1 of Conquering Cannes, it’s all about getting your priorities right. Why are you even going to Cannes and what are you going to do while you’re there?

Beth Wade, global chief communications and integrations officer, VML: “Cannes is full of opportunities to have your calendar more than booked for a week (actually more than a week). My number one suggestion for agencies or individuals attending Cannes for the first time is to prioritize attending the award shows each evening. This is your guidebook to the best work across 30 categories of entries and it should be the material you are taking back to your teams for inspiration. And, of course, find time with your key clients and partners to discuss new opportunities for each of you – having this connect over a glass of rose is never a bad idea.”

Gill Huber, managing partner, Future Factory: “There’s so much going on at Cannes – lots of great work and exciting stuff to see. You won’t be able to do everything. Create a plan of everything you want to do, then take several things off for each day. You’ll bump into people and that’s often where the magic happens: don’t be wedded to your plans. Networking is a big part of Cannes, use it to forge new and different connections. Aim to make five new friends and follow up with them. Meet colleagues and clients flying in to build some face-to-face time with them; it’s invaluable when you’re back on screens. It’s nice to have a general chat, but do offer something of value to the people you are meeting. From everything you see and hear, think about what you can take back to your business, what themes are playing out, and what you should all be doing differently when you’re back. Most importantly, everyone should have a safe, creative and enjoyable experience at Cannes. I’m a passionate advocate of #TimeTo, which is doing valiant work to put an end to sexual harassment in our industry. It has produced a guide I would encourage everyone to read before they head out.

Gabriela Benitez, president, Madwell: “Attending Cannes can be thrilling but also overwhelming, especially for first-timers. My best advice is that less is more. There’s so much great content to absorb at Cannes, but instead of cramming your schedule with every event and panel, leave some room for spontaneity. This way, you can truly engage with new connections, attend panels that genuinely interest you and take the time to explore the Palais to feel creatively inspired. Focusing on quality over quantity is the key to success – it’s better to make a few meaningful connections that can turn into long-term relationships than to try to meet everyone for just a few minutes. Oh, and my last piece of advice is to take one or two days afterward to unwind and schedule a foot massage – you’ll be walking and on your feet for days!”

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Mark Singer, US chief marketing officer, Deloitte Digital: “Cannes can be hectic if you are not planning ahead. A little prep will go a long way in making the trip worthwhile. For first-time attendees, it helps to build a schedule and set a list of objectives on what you hope to accomplish – it can revolve around connections, inspiration, you name it. The real value of Cannes extends well beyond the south of France. It sets a tone for the knowledge you’ve gained against your objectives for the next 6–12 months. That’s where the true benefit of this trip really shows itself. Even after leaving Cannes, the influence on your business resonates year-round.”

Matthew Weisbecker, chief revenue officer, My Code: “Attending Cannes is an incredible and fun opportunity, especially since you are on the French Riviera, but if you want it to be a productive business endeavor, you need to have a clear strategy to ensure it will drive meaningful business outcomes. Before arriving, know what you want to achieve – are you looking for new clients, partnerships or industry insights? Have clear objectives that help measure your success and do your research on attendees and panels and plan. Do your best to schedule meetings in advance, but prepare to be flexible. Cannes is all about networking – attend as many networking events, parties and sessions as you can and see if you can get on a yacht or two. Listen more than you talk and show genuine interest in others’ work and ideas. People are more likely to remember you if you make a meaningful connection and that’s the best measure of success. Forging meaningful relationships can lead to future collaborations or business deals. After Cannes, follow up with those connections, send personalized emails or LinkedIn messages and continue the conversation.”

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