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Conquering Cannes: Make your trip pay off by having a plan of attack and sticking to it


By Richard Draycott, Associate Editor

June 13, 2024 | 10 min read

Veterans of the Cannes Lions share some sage 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.

Hit the ground running and stick to your plan

Hit the ground running and stick to your plan

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.

Part four of our Conquering Cannes series (part three covered the importance of networking) is all about having a plan of attack for when you’re on the ground and sticking to it.

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Rafael Ziggy, chief creative officer, Soko: “I divide my day in Cannes into three parts. The first part is all about gaining knowledge, spending the day at the pre-scheduled talks and lectures. The second part happens during the late afternoon cocktails on the beaches around the Palais. This is usually a time to have relaxed conversations, meet new people, and connect with them. The third part is at the end of the day when everyone wants to enjoy a good rosé and chat without any commitments. I believe that good business deals don’t necessarily happen in Cannes but through the connections made there. So, don’t be in a rush to sell yourself or make deals. Make good connections, save those contacts, and after Cannes, the business will come naturally.”

Ben Grossman, president, Doner: “My simple advice: Freedom within a framework. I like to frame out each day with three planned anchors – a personal meeting, an inspirational session and an activity at an activation. And I start early! My new tradition is to join my Doner colleagues and clients at Stagwell Sport Beach for a morning run and breakfast. I also keep in touch with a list of folks I know will be at Cannes via text – inviting them along with me for my scheduled activities, or joining theirs. That’s where freedom is important – expanding your network beyond the crew you came with.”

Natalia Talkowska, CEO & founder, Natalka Design: “My advice to anyone attending Cannes is to pre-plan, but leave room in your diary for downtime as this enables you to be open to embracing the weird and wonderful opportunities that come from being surrounded by creatives from across the globe. Register for events ahead of time and use the Cannes app to schedule meetings beforehand but remember, that less is more. Focus on key events and talks that will be of interest to the people you want to meet in person. I’m speaking on Monday on AI and creativity so once this is finished, I know I have the whole week ahead of me to soak everything up. Informal networking will be a part of this. I’m hosting a ‘Good Souls Walk and Coffee’ on Thursday 20th at 7.45am to make sure to get headspace and move before the craziness of the day. Try to avoid FOMO. Remember, success in Cannes is about quality connections and valuable business leads. Make your investment count!”

Alicia Iveson, CEO and Co-Founder, Hijinks: “Although this will be our first time in Cannes as a fledgling agency, individually all of our Cannes contingent have navigated it several times. We’ve learnt from previous experiences that you can never be well-enough prepared for Cannes, and in the light of that we’ve created some t-shirts with useful French phrases that you might need to get by, (like “Yes, my name is on the list!” ) As a team we intend to make the most of the week and attend as many talks, events and panel sessions as possible. We’ve also partnered with other small women-run businesses to host a fringe event that explores how brands can connect to culture. Getting to know the other founders has been an amazing experience and our relationship will live on well after Cannes. Here’s to hopefully many more connections that will be forged throughout the week.”

Dave Kersey, chief media officer, GSD&M: “First off, attending Cannes is quite different than how you might have envisioned on your first journey. If you’re like me, you expect to see creativity everywhere – campaign activations, branded stunts, brand experiences, etc. The reality is it has become a data, tech, and publisher playground – think CES meets Advertising Week in the South of France. When it comes to ROI, use your time wisely. Map out key events, panels, and experiences you’ll want to attend. Every partner, publisher, agency holding company, etc., will have content. Once you have an idea reach out to your network for invites, you’ll likely need one for access. Plan time to network and show up at The Carlton, Majestic, or Martinez, you’ll bump into basically anyone in our marketing world. For some extra fun, try to get an invite to St Tropez, La Guerite, Hotel Belles Rives, and Hotel du Cap-Eden Roc.”

Keith Petri, CEO, Lockr: “Cannes Lions is the epitome of experiential marketing. Standing out and generating a return on investment is no small feat. There are only two variables your boss can rely on to calculate ROI and determine if you’ll be attending again next year - Outcomes versus Costs.

“Outcomes: To ensure valuable returns, avoid gaps in your schedule. While many advise leaving room for serendipity, remember that 'luck happens when preparation meets opportunity.’ Chance encounters only occur if you attend early morning workouts, dinners with the right vendors, and after-parties conducive to meaningful conversations. Skip most formal content sessions; if your company invested in sending you to an event like Cannes, you likely already know the key insights.

“Costs: Outside of investing nine figures, the best way to achieve a positive ROI at Cannes is to be smart about where and how you invest. As the proverbial incumbent in my career, I focus on minimizing expenses without compromising the convenience of a tight schedule. To maximize time, I centralize my meetings in a single location that doesn’t charge €16 for a café au lait.”

Andrea Ching, global head of integrated marketing, Bloomberg Media: “Global marketing and advertising leaders convene at moments like Cannes for top-to-top meetings, to celebrate creative excellence, gain inspiration and set the agenda for the year ahead. My best advice is to not over-engineer your Cannes experience. Whether you’re taking part from the client, agency, tech or media company side of the business, universally my best business outcomes have arrived from the more serendipitous conversations that naturally occur when such a concentration of business leaders are gathered in one place at one time. Allow for those moments of connection and reflection. And remember that, as much as we are focused on driving results, at Cannes we are generally not focused on more transactional business - so when looking at success metrics you really need to look at a six-to-12-month window, if not beyond.”

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Stephen Larkin, CMO, Erich & Kallman: “Without a doubt, Cannes is the most important conference for our business, and I’ve had the privilege of attending every year since 2014. Sure, I can tell you to bring sunscreen, drink lots of water, wear comfortable clothes, expect long nights, etc., but for a successful Cannes experience, it comes down to two things: purpose and participation. Have a purpose and make a plan. You need to ask yourself, what do you want to get out of Cannes? Who would you like to meet? What would you like to learn and take away? Plan accordingly. And participate - like any conference, you get out what you put into it. If you’re invited to an event, attend. If someone approaches you, have a conversation. Lastly, remember it’s not a vacation. The fact that Cannes is in the South of France is simply a byproduct and a benefit.”

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