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Getting the most out of Cannes Lions: A beginner’s guide to travel and the Fringe

By Gill Browne, Associate director, strategy

Propeller Group


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June 6, 2024 | 8 min read

Starting on the 17th of this month, the Cannes Lions festival is now just around the corner. Going for the first time? Croisette veteran Gill Browne’s got you covered.

The Cannes train station

Cannes Lions: Daunting for beginners? / Shutterstock

If you’re heading out to Cannes Lions there’s always a lot to consider. Many, like me, might be considering heat-related coping strategies and obsessively refreshing a search for ‘linen shirts’ on Vinted.

For first-timers, or even second- to third-timers, it can be overwhelming. From the artistry and genius displayed in the nominated work, to the talks inside and outside the Palais, to the parties, events and networking opportunities, it can be hard to know where to start.

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Planes, trains and many delays

Getting to Cannes can be a bit of a headache, in my experience (third time’s a charm, I hope). Flying into Nice should be easy – from London, a short two-hour hop. But every year enthusiastic advertising people get caught up in chaos, sitting for hours in a boiling hot Nice airport at midnight, clutching a ‘sorry’ spending voucher for cafes in the gates (all shut).

My first year, the delays, heat, frayed nerves and cumulative hangovers resulted, for some ad industry folk, in an on-board shouting match on an EasyJet flight.

Then there’s the horrendous environmental impact of flying thousands of people out to Cannes – where, of course, many panels are dedicated to ‘sustainability’. It’s essential to have those conversations, but it feels like a bit of a conflict.

So, to mitigate my own carbon emissions (and hopefully enjoy some scenic views) this year I’m heading out on a train. At about 10 hours from London’s Kings Cross to Cannes, it’s a schlep – but not much longer than it took me to get back from Cannes via plane. And it’s going to reduce the carbon emissions of my journey by around 97%.

Reviews to come, but the idea of a long journey on an air-conditioned train through the French countryside seems appealing to me. I can get a day’s work in to boot (if you see me on the train, binge-watching Fallout, please don’t mention this to my superiors).

Feel the fomo and do it anyway

It’s essential that you have a sense of what’s on. Cannes Lions has an online agenda, so for Palais delegates there’s an easy way to narrow down to the talks you’re interested in. But the Fringe is a whole different beast.

A sprawling set of events that cover almost the entire Croisette, from beaches to beachside hotels, there are also uncountable activities in villas a slight walk away from the seafront. And let’s not forget the yachts next to the Palais hosting a wide array of businesses – usually adtech focused. Propeller handily compiles a list of these fringe events (submit your events here if you want attendees to know about yours), so you can go through, sign up and see what you want to explore.

The Fringe is so varied that you can spend your entire itinerary trying to see it all, and you still won’t. Hence my mantra: feel the fomo and do it anyway.

No matter what you do, you’re missing something incredibly cool. Last year, my colleagues met David Beckham at a Netflix activation while I queued to get onto a yacht party which turned out to be full. Get some awareness of what you want to do, commit to it, and try not to worry about what you’re missing.

Mission is possible

A lot of people try to do too much at Cannes.

Have a mission in mind and stick to it. If it’s about supporting clients, hosting events, generating new business, understanding new advertising trends, or just hunting down rosé, focus on your core outcomes for the week. It’s easy to get distracted.

When sending out multiple staff members, this also means briefing them properly on how they can deliver value to the business in their time at the festival. What does your business want out of the investment? If it’s awareness, make sure they know where they can go and make connections (dare I suggest that a must attend is WACL’s Empower Cafe – a space just off the Croisette?). If it’s growing their expertise, ensure they understand which panels that can access and how that can fit into their timetable. If it’s new business, how are you empowering them to start conversations? Invest in useful content or insights they can share with new people, or in Q&A formats on panels. And of course, make sure everyone knows they can use a QR code on their LinkedIn search bar to make quick connections.

Cannes Lions is a hub and a focal point for the conversations that matter in our industry. Have an open mind to what you can learn. And most of all, try to enjoy it.

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Propeller Group

Propeller Group is a Global B2B PR & Marketing Agency. We specialise in working with leading business across media, marketing and technology to deliver a joined-up...

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