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Conquering Cannes: How to make Cannes pay off through sound prep & planning


By Richard Draycott, Associate Editor

June 11, 2024 | 8 min read

Veterans of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity share their advice on how agencies and individuals attending for the first time can make sure it is money well spent and that it delivers a long-term return on their investment.


Be prepared if you want to get what you want in Cannes

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. While there will be thousands of Cannes veterans out there in 2024, there’ll be a good smattering of Cannes virgins there, too, experiencing it for the first time. It’s a hefty investment for any agency to send their 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 2 of our Conquering Cannes series (part one covered the secrets of prioritization) it’s all about preparation. Get a plan in place and stick to it.

Lucy Taylor, chief growth officer, MullenLowe: “In an era of scrutinized marketing investment, Cannes provides a global stage to champion the power in what we do. Winning a Lion? Proof our work works while fostering greater connections between agency and CMO. Cannes energy is palpable, but for first-timers, harnessing that into usefulness is challenging. Ultimately, we’re a people business. Clients buy people. Relationship building is as important today as it ever was. Strategy is key as otherwise you risk getting lost in the cornucopia on offer. Do your prep; research, prioritize, keep tight on scheduling and treat it with respect and it’ll pay off more than any other networking op in the calendar. Oh, and get the train (there’s a climate emergency). You’ll need the time to make follow-up plans.”

Maria Malsin, global head of corporate communications, Outbrain: “Attending Cannes for the first time can be an exhilarating experience, filled with opportunities for networking, learning, and business development and the keys to success are preparation and strategic engagement. Pre-festival, it’s important to set clear objectives, research attendees, and prepare a compelling and concise pitch. Have an idea of who you want to meet and arrange meetings with before you get there. During the festival, leave some windows of time open to attend relevant events, workshops, and major talks. Attending a couple of these sessions on your own will force you to meet people and expand your network. Some of the best opportunities to connect with new contacts are informal networking at parties, cocktail hours, and popular spots like Hotel Martinez, Gutter Bar, and the Carlton Terrace. By setting meeting goals, preparing thoroughly, and engaging both formally and informally, you’ll build valuable connections and gather insights that can be transformed into genuine business leads and long-term relationships.”

Brian Feit, founding partner, BMF: “Get your pre-Cannes hustle and networking on. It’s just as important as on-site networking. Reach out to friends, find out who’s going, and get yourself on the right RSVP lists to ensure you’re bringing home value. There are many free events open to the public with amazing speakers you can easily approach after a session. Always ask for people’s emails so you can follow up afterward – this is key. It only takes one deal to make the trip worthwhile, not to mention the valuable learning and notes you can share with colleagues. Figure out who you know who’s going and what lists you can get on. Top events include Google Beach, Televisa’s party, and The Female Quotient signature Equality Lounge®. And, of course, networking at the iconic Carlton Hotel, which is buzzing at any time of day.”

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Josh Golden, CMO, Quad: “The currency for successfully meeting people at Cannes is memorability, connection and follow-up. Long before you travel, identify the 10 to 15 brands that need what your brand or agency sells. Then reach out. Suggest meeting at a convenient location for no more than 15 minutes. If you’re having trouble nailing those meetings beforehand, go to where those people are speaking in Cannes. Introduce yourself after a panel and spark conversation with something relevant from their talk. One other trick is using your feet for transportation. It’s a great way to catch people on the Croisette for an impromptu connection. Most important though, is listening – and that goes for Cannes or any time you’re representing your brand or agency. Talking too much and selling too fast is a turn-off. Asking provocative questions and posing valuable follow-ups are the tools of the trade for warming up a cold conversation.”

Katy Wright, CEO, FCB London: “Go into Cannes aiming to get as much out of it as possible. It’s a plate-spinning act of attending sessions, spending time with clients, mapping out future strategies and creative work, and seeing colleagues from around the world. But you need a plan. We all have a day job; no one can just go off-grid, so use the mornings wisely. If you have time, diving into the content is key to getting fresh perspectives on industry topics. I like ‘geeking’ out in the ‘tech spaces’ - as I am running a business I want to see the latest developments in the space for inspiration and ideas. Also, divide and conquer. If you have team members there, you can’t do everything. Even if you don’t leave with any Lions, you should aim to walk away with something.”

Check out Conquering Cannes Part 1: Getting your priorities right

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