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Learning Guide Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

How CMOs can maximize their ROI from Cannes Lions 2023

By Katie Klumper, Founder and Chief Executive Officer

June 14, 2023 | 9 min read

The festival is one of the ad industry's biggest events of the year, but attendance requires a significant financial investment. Black Glass Founder and CEO Katie Klumper offers a few tips for marketing leaders who are looking to make the most of their upcoming trip to France.

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This year's Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity will take place June 19-23. / Adobe Stock

When CMOs are prepping for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, it’s easy to get weighed down by logistics. What are you going to wear? Where are you going to stay? How are you going to survive that heat?

But there’s a much more important question to ask yourself: How are you going to get the biggest return on investment—both for your time and your money—while also giving back to the industry, your peers and the next generation?

For marketing professionals, Cannes, which this year takes place from June 19-23, is one of the tentpole events on the calendar each year—an important moment for education, networking and celebration. But let’s face it: Going to Cannes isn’t cheap. And in a time when budgets are tighter than ever, paying for the festival pass, the travel and the lodging is a major investment. And once you’re on-site, it’s all too easy to treat a week in the South of France like a vacation; after all, the agenda is jam-packed with parties and other distractions that can quickly pull even the most focused CMO in a million different directions.

So how do you board the plane home knowing you got the most bang for your buck, and that you contributed to the future of the industry in meaningful ways? Here’s some advice for marketers looking to make the most of their time at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival.

Set clear intentions, and let those guide your schedule

Carefully build your schedule before you get on site. (Hint: the sweet spot for CMOs is Sunday through Wednesday!) To do this, it’s crucial to clearly establish your top-line objectives – whether you’re looking to be educated by some of the industry’s top minds, network with your peers, celebrate and be inspired, or something else – and then keep those objectives in mind as you build your schedule.

If one of your main goals is to get inspired and recharge, for example, make sure you carve out time to look at the installations and activations both inside The Palais and along the Croisette. (Tip: Many agencies and holding companies do tours, or you can do it yourself!) After all, the work at Cannes can unlock innovative new ways to think about your business.

If your goals are more education-focused, panels may be more of a worthwhile focus. For networking purposes, focusing on one-on-one meetings is likely a better use of your time.

Get involved with panels that will have an impact beyond the festival itself

Think about Cannes the same way you would think about your customer. How can you increase the lifetime value that you are getting — which will ultimately help lower the overall “cost” of your attendance? For CMOs, it can be a valuable place to establish your credibility, and ideally, the choices you make on-site can echo long after the event itself.

Many press outlets and media brands host their own programming outside of the official Cannes panels and have more opportunities for CMOs to speak.

If you’re considering appearing on a panel, ask the organizers some key questions to determine the ROI. These can include: Who else is on the panel, and how are you marketing it? Who do you expect to be in the audience? And most importantly, are you doing any live-streaming or recording to help this reach a wider audience and live on beyond Cannes?

If you’re agreeing to share your expertise, be sure to carefully think about whether it’s the best use of your time. Getting in front of the audience at Cannes can be a great thing, as long as it’s not taking you away from something else that’s more in line with your main goals for the week.

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Be strategic with your networking

Cannes Lions draws an estimated annual crowd of around 15,000 people, which means there are plenty of influential voices to hear and interact with. That also means, however, that you can’t count on just bumping into those people whom you’re keen to network with. Start planning now and make a list of who you want to spend time with.

If you’re trying to get in front of the press, most industry publications have a presence on-site, with many of them hosting their own activation spaces, dinners and panels throughout the week. Major brands like TikTok, Meta and Amazon also host their own pop-ups with dedicated areas for one-on-one meetings.

A note about parties: While it can be tempting to try and get into the flashiest events — like Spotify’s infamous concerts – it’s still important to keep your goals in mind. Will an intimate CMO dinner or happy hour help you meet those goals more than rubbing elbows with celebrities? That’s up to you, but plan well in advance where you would like to spend your evenings and make sure to get your tickets sooner rather than later.

The bottom line

It’s hard not to be inspired at Cannes, whether it’s by the education, the activations and installations, or just the people you’ll spend time with. But in a post-pandemic world, when budgets are tighter than ever, many CMOs are on the fence about the investment that’s required to attend the festival.

With the right intention, however, Cannes can offer benefits you can’t find anywhere else in your calendar year—as long as you approach it strategically. Take the time to carefully define your goals ahead of time, and use those to build your schedule. And when you get home, reflect on how well you were able to meet those goals. When it comes to making a decision about your attendance for next year, you'll be glad you have this record.

Katie Klumper is the founder and CEO of Black Glass. For more, sign up for The Drum’s daily US newsletter here.

Learning Guide Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

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