The APA asked three Cannes Lions first-timers to report back on their strange experiences on the French riviera
Every year, starting from January and continuing until Cannes Lions is upon us in June, the industry debates whether the festival has still got ‘it’, and if we should be bothering to go at all. Grumblings of “it’s not about creativity at all anymore” and “it’s just a money-making machine”; and by the time we get around to May there’s plenty of “I can’t be bothered - I’m not going”. But as Summer hits and people begin putting their Cannes calendars in order, most will eventually fold to the inevitable, and book their ticket.
Whilst we all knew that there were going to be some big-name no-shows this year, for those of us who focus our diaries more on the fringe events, Cannes offered the same great beach parties and fab villa affairs. And while MDs and EPs may bemoan their sixteenth year of Easyjet-ing it over to the South of France for rosé and clients, others were getting ready to experience their first ever Cannes Lions Festival.
We asked some of these first-timers to share their experiences from the week, relaying the good, the bad and the not-to-be-done-again from their stint in the sun.
New Business Coordinator at Prettybird
I was a little hesitant of what to expect when I arrived in Cannes - the hub of the international advertising social scene for the next week. The wind was blowing, the sun was scorching and I'd already made a few friends on my flight and coach into the madness.
Tuesday morning I was raring to go, with only a 12-minute walk to the Palais from my apartment I skipped gleefully down to the promenade with high hopes. I did not have a festival badge, so made a personal bet with myself to gate crash as many beaches as I could.
First up on the list: Google
What a cute set up! I was like a kid in a playground, so many activities to run through and refreshing smoothies on tap to cure the hangover from the night before. The interactive sections were great; a personal favourite was the Gif Booth using x-13 Pixel phones, giving you a 180° moving gif of fabulousness.
Next on the list: Spotify
Now this one was a bit trickier to get into, but where there’s a will there’s a way! Great to see some incredible panel discussions whilst spraying myself with the Evian mist spray kindly provided by the Spotify crew. A personal highlight was the ‘Cannes in Color: Tackling Tough Conversations about Race and Equality in Advertising.’
It was so special to see the progression that P&G is making externally and internally for the representation of people of colour in the company and through its comms. Currently there are 4% Black and 5% Asian minorities across the whole industry and P&G are actively trying to do something about it.
OK enough gate crashing, I did actually manage to RSVP to a number of events including the fantastic LBB & Friends Beach. What a crew and what a great place to meet semi-sober people for a bite to eat and a catch up.
As I mentioned I was lucky enough to meet some friends for life on my flight, Fran at Believe Media and Jay from Grey who invited me along to one of the coolest villa parties at Cannes. Enter the world of Captify, featuring bridge over pool, mini waterfall and unlimited Aperol Spritz.
I’ve also forgotten to mention all the incredibly important meetings I had which came about at the poolside. One must always be prepared to talk business. In fact, I met so many key people from the industry I feel like all meetings should be set alongside a pool with a glass of rosé in hand from now on.
The sun set and we danced on into the night to some old school garage, covered in glitter. Our crew, which now consisted of the loveliest people from McCann, Grey and Believe Media embarked on a journey of food, well deserved after a full day of talking and partying.
I’m not sure if anyone’s ever been to Vesuvio in Cannes? Well neither had we! As we hopped in our Ubers we mentioned the journey feeling a little longer going down to the Croisette than it had on the way up. When we arrived at the restaurant opposite a Euro-pop bar we quickly realised that we were no longer in Cannes (classic). We were in Juan Les Pins. It was a nice meal nonetheless!
After a full day of fun it was time to call it a night. *Queue carpool sing-alongs all the way back to Cannes.*
PR and Marketing Assistant at APA
I am officially no longer a Cannes Virgin!
I don’t think I’ve ever had an event hyped up to me as much as Cannes. Stories of getting blackout drunk, skinny dipping with colleagues and general debauchery - I was expecting something of a mad one.
And did it live up to the hype? Yes! I may not have been living out a scene from XXX but had an amazing time regardless. You don’t often see three bottles of champagne being ordered on an Easyjet flight, a tell-tale sign of the kind of place I was heading to.
It wasn’t long after checking into our Airbnb, that I found myself at my first pool party. This may seem obvious to everyone else when heading to a pool party, but a word of advice to future Cannes newbies, REMEMBER. TO. TAKE. A. SWIM. SUIT. A fact I repeated to myself as I slid into the pool in my shorts.
Whilst I paddled in the water with my denim shorts on, what did I think to myself? To be frank I was completely taken aback. Since when did floating around in a pool on a giant inflatable flamingo and sipping a whisky cocktail in the south of France become my job?!
Whilst the Cannes environment sounds ridiculous to all our friends unlucky enough to not work in the industry and enjoy such great perks, I genuinely felt there was a lot to be gained (beyond the hangovers) from being there. The same people you bump into in London are plonked into a beautiful setting, meaning everyone is on a complete high and (mostly) having a good time, where the only thing you really have to do is chat to new people and old friends.
This theme carried on into the evening with my first beach party. There were a lot more people than I was expecting and, of course, a lot more alcohol. At this point, it was hard to find someone that I didn’t get along with. The other great thing about Cannes is not everyone is just from London. I met people from all over the globe at only my first party. From California to Hungary to Ireland. Some of these people regard Cannes as THE place to meet people so they make it the centre of their calendar year, so you’ll meet people you would never have the chance to meet at any other event.
All in all, yes Cannes can come across as this hugely superficial, yacht obsessed playground for the industry. But you also have the chance to meet some amazing people and, depending on what you want to get out of it, I promise you, you can have an amazing time!
One key final takeaway? I won’t be drinking rosé again…
Director at Great Guns
“Cannes - is it worth it?” It’s a question we’ve all asked our mates in the industry at some point. In my experience people typically answer in the affirmative, referencing that massive job they got off the back of a random meeting in a pool. Or they might argue that it’s good to be seen and “have a presence”. It’s a big expense for a young director: flights, hotels, ridiculously overpriced Ubers, drinks (not all parties offer a free bar…). So you spend time weighing it up and deciding if it’s worth splashing out.
This year was my first Cannes as a director. I expected to come home with a bag full of memories from glamorous and debauched pool parties and the gutter bar. And yes, my Easyjet carry-on suitcase did contain a bit of that on my return, but on the whole, Cannes was far more chilled than I’d been expecting. I spent almost all of my time at my production company Great Guns’ lunch and dinner meetings, sat with creatives, agency producers and other directors from all over the world. It’s rare to spend time with clients outside of the inevitably stressful and all consuming environment of a shoot, and Cannes offered a great opportunity to have a more casual chat and get to know them outside of work.
My Cannes experience kicked off Wednesday morning with an interview about the challenges faced by new directors. But in typical Cannes-style, my interviewer took my mention that my film for ‘Breast Cancer Now’ had been shortlisted for a Lion as a cue to invite me to do a talk. Not exactly the plan, but hey – when in Cannes, right? The thing is, I can happily stand in front of a reasonable group of around forty people and chat away, but I’m not going to lie: public speaking is something I usually try to avoid at all costs. Somehow I stumbled through it, with generous feedback from kind spectators. But I conquered my fear of public speaking and stepped out my comfort zone, and that has to be a good thing.
Cannes is peerless in the advertising world and for that reason it offers a unique opportunity to meet other creative people from all corners of the globe. I definitely came back from the festival feeling inspired if a little frazzled. It’s important to go with a plan and to know what you want out of the festival. If your plan is to just show up and hit a few parties then you’ll probably come home disappointed, with a couple of wrinkled business cards (that you never actually follow up) and a depleted bank account. Although depending on your expectations, that might be just fine.
So was it worth it? Will I be back again? For one reason or another, Definitely!.
To see Duncan's shortlisted spot for ‘Breast Cancer Now’ click here
Director’s Rep at Stink
Cannes Lions has always been an event I’ve aspired to be a part of. Having grown up around the industry through my Dad, I’ve overheard Cannes stories my entire life. I used to receive selfies from my Dad with DJs I loved, or singers I would die to get an autograph from. I used to see these pictures of him and all of his best friends in the sun living the GODDAMN dream! I knew then… this was a place I needed to be.
Eventually I started working in production where I continued to hear these epic stories from friends and colleagues. I’d receive the same selfies in the sun with gigantic bottles of rosé and learning all about the contacts my peers were making at these glamorous parties.
Finally after four years of working in advertising, I got the chance to go and represent STINK as a directors’ rep at the Festival. Weirdly - I wasn’t excited. I was terrified. Panic set in. Growing up, Cannes always looked like one big party but now, being in the industry, I’ve realised it’s a lot more hard work than just sipping rosé in the Carlton and getting messy in the gutter bar.
When I arrived, I had to present at our internal company summit. Every MD from our 9 offices joined to chat through plans for the year ahead. After this, I set myself up in our studio and got ready to have my first meeting. It was non-stop from the offset. The hours of planning before definitely paid off! Breakfasts, lunches and dinners along with the odd pool party in between and another party to end the long long days (u ok hun?).
There was little time for myself on this trip, it was all about getting in front of as many people possible… which I did. Dinner with the Uncommon gang, gorgeous meals with mates from WCRS, Grey & JWT and so, so much more. The highlight for me had to be the Vice Party. It was everything I’d always imagined Cannes to be. Incredible views with epic DJs and even the odd dollar bill-filled ice sculpture. The time I spent with all my friends, old and new in the industry was invaluable.
Top tips given to me before I went:
-When the parties on the beach end… go home. Nothing good happens after them, EVER.
-Don’t start drinking till 5pm.
-Pack hand luggage ONLY.
-Water every third drink!
Tips I actually listened to:
-If you get invited on a boat… you go on the fucking boat.
-Don’t wear heels, you will most definitely look like a twat.
-Don’t get carried away and bomb head first into a pool of people at a villa and dislocate your shoulder.
-EAT EVERYTHING YOU CAN, ALWAYS.