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Cannes for Control Freaks: A Producer's Perspective on Getting the Most Out of the Festival
Advertising Agency
Kansas City, USA
INFLUENCER: Barkley's Melany Esfeld offers some tips on maximising your experience at Cannes

This was my rookie year at Cannes, and being a control freak - I mean, producer - I knew I had to make a plan. I wasn’t going to just another award show or ad festival. I was going to the International Festival of Creativity, and I wanted to know the best way to get the most out of it.

It’s one of those paradoxes in life: a solid plan can open you up so that inspiration can reach you. But how do you make a solid plan for a free-flowing event like this one?

If you’re reading coverage of Cannes 2018 and already dreaming about next year (like I am), I’d like to share some still-fresh lessons about how to maximise your experience:

- Do your research. In the months before the festival, it seemed like everyone I spoke to had their own perspective of Cannes. What to see, who to meet, where to hang and the best eats.

- Schedule time in advance: the talks you must see, the people you have to meet, the events you cannot miss. This agenda will guide your stay in France.

- Include some aspirations on your list: the people you want to get to know who don’t know you yet, the kinds of experiences you’d like to have. This way, you’ll be primed to notice those opportunities when they arise.

- Leave a little time for the unexpected and the adventures that happen along the way. Follow a crowd that seems to know something you don’t. Duck into a restaurant no one’s mentioned on their 'best eats' list. This will help you make Cannes your own.

- Decide if you can live without ketchup on your fries. Ketchup requests do not always go over well with the French.

- Bring a swimsuit, sunscreen and a hat. You will end up on a boat and ideally swimming in the Mediterranean at some point.

- But most importantly, connect with the people.

Let’s be real, I could go on an on about all the amazing talks (which honestly were amazing) or highlight the work that elevates the standard of our business (which was awe-inspiring), but when I distil the entire experience down, it all comes back to the people. The networking, the relationships, the icons and the peers who are hustling every minute of every day in this crazy business. They are what make Cannes what it is.

See, my perspective is different than when I landed in the south of France. Cannes is not just a place to find inspiration, it is a place to surround yourself with our family, the very best of creative advertising. It’s where you can share a conversation with a producer from another country who you instantly have common ground with, or drink rosé with a former colleague you haven’t spoken to in 10 years and talk like you haven’t missed a beat. Cannes is not only about the work, it’s about the people who create the work. The brands who are bold and brave, the icons who inspire you to work harder, the people who you can call at anytime, and most importantly, the lifelong friends who support you through it all.

Remember what you loved about it, so that when next year’s rookies come to you asking where to go, eat, or hang out, you have a recommendation. Or, even better, make a plan to meet with them there. 

Melany Esfeld is director of integrated production at Barkley