Whether you're heading to Cannes Lions for the first time this year, or the details from your last visit are a little hazy, don't worry. Cannes Lions lover Ben Titchmarsh is here with a Google Maps-enabled interactive introduction to the festival’s most popular networking events, bars, yachting marinas and open invitation parties.
The first day at secondary school. Fresher’s week during university. A first night out in an unfamiliar city. We all know what it’s like to feel a newbie, afraid of asking where to go out, but even more afraid of missing out.
The following list of places to socialise during Cannes Lions is fatally flawed. Attempting to draw up a definitive list of the best places to network, party or chill out after an inspiring day of main stage Palais talks, meetings and pavement pounding is an exercise in futility – and that’s even before you think of the awards ceremonies, invitation-only private parties, exclusive rooftop agency bars and poolside ‘parties on the hill’ for the well-connected that dot the Croisette and surrounding areas.
So apologies in advance. Long ago, I reconciled myself to the fact that at any given moment someone, somewhere is having a better time than me. You should too.
But if you’re attending Cannes Lions for the first time, you don’t want uncertainty or ‘better party somewhere soul-searching syndrome’. You want cool places to go dammit!
Hopefully what follows is as good a guide as any, based on Propeller’s past experiences of previous years at Cannes Lions. Or at the very least, it’s a half-decent starting point.
So without further ado, here’s a top 10 list in no particular order of the most popular open-access hang out spots during Cannes Lions, handily marked with Google Maps hyperlinks and addresses in French to make it easier to get around. You’re welcome.
1. The Carlton Hotel - 58 Promenade de la Croisette, 06400 Cannes
The Carlton has pedigree. It was an Alfred Hitchcock film shoot location. The first date venue of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco. The site of spectacular jewellery heists and some of the film industry’s biggest deals in history. The Carlton Hotel is Cannes, so it’s a fittingly glamorous place to kick off this Cannes Lions socialising round up.
Absurdly opulent in the way only 100-year-old five star hotels can be on the inside, outside The Carlton Terrace is a great place to network with industry heavy hitters and the only drink to order is a bottle of Rosé.
Forget your perceptions about Rosé too, rookie. Until now Rosé may have been the type of drink you’d get asked to buy by someone on the sticky dancefloor of the worst type of provincial market town nightclub. But in Cannes it’s bafflingly the only drink many people are seen with. By all means order a magnum of Rosé in The Carlton to share amongst friends. Just try not to get lumbered with the whole bar bill at the end.
Also remember you’re in polite company and never lower the tone by thinking it’s funny to ‘do the Carlton’. The Carlton Hotel management will ask you to leave without any more of a scene and we’ve barely even begun our tour.
2. Google Beach - 8 Boulevard de la Croisette, 06400, Cannes
Talks on the sand from YouTube stars and big name agency bods. Live music performances from seriously decent acts. Tech demos and the chance to grab loved ones some seriously cool free stuff like personalised t-shirts, bags and pictures. The Google creative sandbox area is one of my favourite places to chill out during Cannes Lions and there’s hammocks and sun loungers aplenty. Pinch yourself – you really do get paid to have this good a time.
3. Hotel Martinez - 73 Boulevard de la Croisette, 06400 Cannes
Located within spitting distance of the infamous Gutter Bar (more on that to follow believe me), the art deco Hotel Martinez is a firm Cannes Lions favourite. Popular with quite a hip creative agency and production company crowd, The Martinez has a good mix of indoor bars and outdoor areas and has just the right cocktail of sophistication and hedonism.
Legend has it the owners once told The New York Times they sell more alcohol during Cannes Lions week when ad folk hit town than they do in the whole two weeks of the film festival. Who ever knew advertising was such thirsty work?
4. The main Cannes Lions Yachts Jetty - Jetée Albert Edouard, 06400 Cannes
Around the back of the main festival building complex is a jetty where loads of rented yachts are moored. Beloved of global agency groups and well-funded ad tech companies, it’s totally a cliché to spend your time on yachts during Cannes Lions, but hey ho – who’s complaining? Nothing beats breakfast on a yacht in my experience.
Watching a sunset while you drink a glass of champagne and take that all-important selfie to send your mum and jealous colleagues back in London is a rite of passage too. Go on. I’m not judging you. All aboard!
5. Cannes Lions Basement Shortlisted Work Exhibitions - Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, 06400 Cannes
Away from the Cannes Lions stages, in the bowels of the main festival building lurks a treasure trove of shortlisted Cannes Lions work from around the world. Competition judges spend thousands of hours each year ranking entered ads in myriad categories and what goes on display is the crème de la crème.
Spending an afternoon there being inspired could be the best career decision you ever make – and if you’re passionate about a certain type of work, make that section your home for an hour or two. There’s no better place in Cannes Lions to meet like-minded souls.
6. The Cannes Connect Bar - Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, 06400 Cannes
After a long day of talks in the Palais, you’ve earned a tipple – so head up onto the roof of the main Cannes Lions building for a well-deserved drink. The Cannes Connect Bar hosts a series of networking events throughout the week sponsored by a wide variety of different companies and associations.
One of the great things about Cannes Lions is the random people you meet and The Cannes Connect Bar is designed to facilitate serendipity. The view from the roof of the bay is also really quite something.
7. Cannes Lions Beach Soccer Tournament - Plage du Palais des Festivals, 06400 Cannes, France
Taking place on the Tuesday and Wednesday on the beach adjacent to the Palais, football teams from around the world battle it out to be crowned Cannes Lions beach soccer champions and it really isn’t just a casual kickabout – players take it very seriously indeed. In recent years, the Danish and Brazilian national teams have won the cup and if for whatever reason the thought of watching ad men in shorts play football in the sun is appealing, get yourself down there.
Half a mile from the Palais on the other side of the bay, Le Suquet is the old town quarter of Cannes and it’s absolutely beautiful, with cobbled, winding roads leading up to the oldest church in the area at the top of the hill. I’ll avoid saying any more, as I’m writing a Cannes Lions socialising tips list rather than a Lonely Planet or a Rough Guide entry and have a reputation to uphold, but trust me – it’s a lovely place to go to for a spot of lunch if you fancy a change of pace.
9. Havas Café - Ctre Ville, 06400 Cannes
Situated in the palm tree-lined gardens of Le Grand Hôtel, the Havas Café hosts a range of speakers throughout the week and is another nice spot to catch some talks and take the weight off your feet. Heading further away from the road and towards the hotel is also a nice spot for interviews, catch ups and quieter moments. There’s also quite a few early evening parties held on the grass that are a nice way of kicking off a big evening.
10. The Gutter Bar - 71 Boulevard de la Croisette, 06400 Cannes
There’s only one place to end this list – The Gutter Bar, the gloriously God-forsaken outdoor late night watering hole where many an evening at Cannes Lions is fated to end up.
The Gutter Bar’s real name is ‘72 Croisette’ and if you see a large neon ‘72’ sign, you’ve found the place. Crowds of revellers throng the street, spilling out onto the road and make for a colourfully terrifying spectacle. If you look carefully enough, you’ll see true industry rock stars mingling with other attendees and it’s not a bad analogy – at moments the whole thing can resemble a rock concert mosh pit in all its sweaty glory.
Democratically non-elitist in the way any sea of drunk people always is once the sun comes up, the Gutter Bar is a bona fide Cannes Lions institution and somewhere everyone ends up on one night or another, whatever their initial protestations. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde:
“We are all in the Gutter [Bar], but some of us are looking at the stars.”
So there you have it. Or at least a fraction of it. Over 12,000 delegates will attend Cannes Lions 2015. That means there’ll be countless thousands of stories about parties that people will regale colleagues with when they return from the French Riviera in the words of Johnny Cash: “a wiser, weaker man”, or for that matter woman. I’ve done my best to give you a starting point. The rest is up to you.
But wherever the mood takes you, you’ll always remember your first time at Cannes Lions and hopefully this rookie’s guide to festival socialising will serve you well - if you see me, be sure to say thanks by buying me a glass of Rosé. But only during Cannes Lions. Normally I can’t stand the stuff.
Ben Titchmarsh is head of media and marketing at Propeller