This year marked my 10th trip to the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival, and although I wouldn’t class myself as a veteran, I would put myself in the ‘seasoned’ bracket.
However, the one question I got asked more than any other this year was ‘why do you come to Cannes and what do you get out of it?’. In some cases I think there was genuine interest, but in others I am certain it was to help explain to their bosses – who were questioning their attendance – as to why they were there.
The short answer is that it allows myself and the three members of my team – who were there – the perfect opportunity to meet exciting and potential partners, speakers, judges and delegates to our events around the world, who are based everywhere from India to Mexico and Sweden to Miami. Yes we are often in the market of each of the countries we work in, but normally we spend a week or more just in one country. At Cannes we are able to meet clients from around the world in one week. For a company creating experiences for the advertising industry around the world it is perfect.
To put this into perspective between myself and my three colleagues we clocked up on average 30 meetings a day and that is before we take into account the people we met at events, parties – News UK, The Telegraph and Spotify – and random meetings along the Crossiette, or in queues for the toilets, airport and bars. Even last night at 9.30pm in Nice airport I was talking business with a new client…
Yes it was clear to see the numbers were significantly down on last year, but this seems to be a symptom of the need for ROI, the restructuring of the agency holding groups and the collapse of some notable adtech firms. However, the upside to this was the number of successful meetings and lack of cancellation from those that normally double or treble book themselves. It meant from a business perspective – if you structured it right – it could be very successful.
This is very different to my journalist days there when I was doing 30-40 video interviews over a week and reporting on content sessions every day, but again if structured right it can be very successful.
In terms of content this year I didn’t make it into the Palais this year but the offerings from the likes of Dentsu, Index Exchange, MediaCom, Facebook, IBM and Havas in their own dedicated spaces were both inspiring and interesting.
Yes it’s hard work if you want to make the trip a success, but this is tempered by the fact you are having meetings in temporary structures on beaches, or in villas and apartments that the majority of us couldn’t afford to go to at our own expense, while every hospitality need is catered for free of charge – in most cases anyway.
There are also the lunches that bring together great people and allow peer to peer discussions about work, life and everything from sport to music. Two of my favourites being The Marketing Society and Lighthouse ones.
I was also involved in a leaderhsip podcast with IBM this year, which touched on business transformation, inclusion and company culture, and was one of the best things I have done in Cannes during my time there. Essentially if you want to do business and make it count you can, and easily.
I mean – unless you don’t like the sun or the sea – what’s wrong with having to work in the sun for a week, get treated like royalty and offered the opportunity to get involved in things you would never do in ‘real’ life like sitting on a yacht interviewing someone about their Iron Man-esque experience they have created and the potential it has to change culture, travel and events.
It’s simple really, you get out what you put in. For some that’s lots of wine and a hangover, but for others it’s wine, beer, business and fun all wrapped into one.
It’s only when you get back you realise how surreal and long the last three days were. My bubble was burst in the best possible way this morning, being given my seven week old at 5.30am and then doing the school run with the other two children. Now that is hard work…