Post-pandemic Cannes: ditching parties to attract the latest talent
Laura Minton, producer at AKQA, outlines why this year’s Cannes Lions festival will have a different focus for attendees.
The fight for talent will take place at Cannes Lions
It’s difficult to overstate how excited people were for this year’s Cannes festival. The creative industry’s biggest annual event takes place in-person for the first time since 2019. Last year’s online event (after a canceled 2020) forced us to engage in new and innovative ways. But as everyone knows, creativity is best when we’re together and the sparks are flying.
Those of us attending, both online and in-person, should recognize that this year’s festival will differ from those we remember pre-pandemic. Being in person, there will be a very special energy. But it will be a different energy nonetheless. Many of us will also be approaching it with a different mindset. Considering how that might affect our experience will help us all get the most out of it.
No more week-long ‘jollies’
For years, many attended Cannes with the kind of ‘booze and schmooze’ approach you could only expect from the old-school ad industry. There might have been a few talks or ceremonies they would turn up to. If they missed something, did it really matter? But this carefree attitude will be difficult to find at this year’s festival. In fact, it had been dissipating for several years. The pandemic only cranked the final notch shut.
Clients are sending their employees to Cannes this year with a much clearer purpose. This, in a sense, is reflecting the state of the business world as a whole. People are planning their schedules in advance and filling them with as many opportunities to connect with others and develop their ideas as possible. There will be a serious focus on learning and engagement. People want to celebrate, sure. But they also want to advance the conversation about the meaning of industry events like Cannes.
This new dynamic is a good thing. The challenges the world faces this year are very different from those it faced last year and the year before that. The issue of climate change has become the biggest conversation of our generation, and will remain so for decades to come. This requires a different attitude from our industry, which plays such an important role in shaping public opinion. Those of us attending should remember this and embrace the new purpose-focused atmosphere.
More youth engagement
As a result of this new purpose-led dynamic, Cannes will experience a lot more engagement from young creatives this year. We’ve recognized as a society that inaccessibility no longer fits our industry ideal. That’s why the Future Lions competition, for example, remains completely free to enter. Entrants only require wild imagination and the ambition to create something good. You don’t even need to be enrolled in an advertising program anymore, you just need to have less than six months of industry experience.
This increased accessibility has resulted in two principal changes from the last in-person event in 2019. The first is that many more young creatives will be attending the event in Cannes. Through Future Lions, I know that this year the festival will receive more schools than ever before. Our educational partners want to give their students the experience so many have missed over the past two years.
More young creatives in Cannes means we industry professionals need to prepare ourselves to connect with them. For them, it’s an opportunity some may only experience once in their lives. They’ll want to make the most out of it. For us, from a selfish point of view, it’s a fantastic opportunity to scout new talent and meet those we might one day work with. We’re also obliged to encourage new voices who will go on to become something special in the industry as a whole.
The majority are still unable to attend the festival in person. For those in Europe, it’s close, but still a big investment. People elsewhere in the world may not even have a choice. As a result of last year’s virtual success, this means some of the festival content will be online and in front of the paywall this year – including the Future Lions awards show. The ceremony, winners’ pitches and keynote speeches will be free to anyone. Without seeing it, how can young creatives expect to be it? We hope this approach will encourage the industry to take similar steps as a whole.
The added benefit of remote accessibility is increased reach. Creative industries have for so long been accessible only to those living in big cities, especially in countries such as the UK. Free online content from the industry’s biggest annual event will push our boundaries outwards. This not only offers those outside cities the chance to participate, it also creates a larger, more diverse pool of could-be creatives.
It’s a good thing that Cannes will be different this year. Embracing that change is the best choice we can make as an industry. We have important work to do in the years ahead. Only engaging with purpose and fostering diverse new talent will make it possible.