Each year, the global advertising and creative communities gather in the South of France for creative inspiration, challenging conversations, highly coveted awards, cocktail parties with cameos by rap stars you’ve forgotten about, and inevitably too much rosé. While this festival (not the Cannes Film Festival, despite what many of our friends and families choose to believe year after year) may be a great opportunity to connect with fellow US industry colleagues quite literally 'out of office', I earn the most enduring benefits when I challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone and take advantage of the uniquely global scale of the event.
Sure, it’s easy to spend the whole week enjoying quality face time with my stateside industry cohorts on the picturesque beach side, but I’ve experienced first hand the long term bonuses of growing my network and visibility to include the international advertising arena. Over time, I’ve really pushed myself to explore new groups of people during the month out of the year where the global industry is in one space.
For many companies, the pinnacle conferences are fraught with stodgy lectures, stale appetisers, and endless sales pitches. In contrast, the celebratory nature of Cannes gives you the opportunity to build lasting and meaningful business relationships and partnerships by socialising with a shared creative outlook. Not only does this make a more inspiring event, but it does wonders for cost-effectiveness by letting you strategise and reach a global audience for the cost of a single trip.
Given the competitive landscape of international production incentives, and tech advancements that pave the way for seamless collaboration on even the largest file sizes across the globe, expanding your reach to a global database is more accessible than ever - if you go after it. By strategically pursuing networking events, panel discussions and even chance conversations on the Croisette that bring in a more international attendee demographic, I’ve found that I leave Cannes with a fresher perspective and creative business direction.
How my team engages in Cannes each year serves as a footprint for how we structure our sales trips and target markets for the year to come. If we establish just one meaningful connection with a potential international client, we can map out how to further cultivate that relationship with an eye towards continued expansion in that market. While establishing the initial rapport on the ground in Cannes is key, as soon as we get home we’re making plans to engage digitally and in-person over the year to come.
The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has certainly received its fair share of scrutiny in recent years, with major questions of ROI and shifting industry models making headlines and many of advertising’s major players rethinking their participation in the largest professional gathering of the year. Advertising is an industry that relies on creativity, which is at the core of what is celebrated at Cannes each year. With creativity, change is inevitable.
Understanding that with Cannes and these types of large scale events, trying to get 'a job' out of it should not be the approach. Rather, the approach here should be one of strategic partnership and relationship cultivation, one that enables future opportunities and prospects.
It’s no secret that one of the biggest recent changes is the insurgence of tech giants at Cannes Lions - which may be a bigger push to get out of your comfort zone than just seeking conversations with those on other continents. Let’s just say the beaches have been sufficiently commandeered by these major players. Yet while many Cannes attendees are groaning about the shift, they’re opening the apps of these household names at the same time. I’ll admit that I’ve most certainly been a part of, and at times led those rants, but now I should step outside of my own ego and embrace this as the next wave of opportunity at Cannes. These tech giants are ingrained in the greater advertising ecosystem. To ignore their presence and choose not to engage is to be left behind.
Tech beaches, I’m coming for you. Get your green juices and beach volleyball games ready.
Hani Selim is EP / managing director at Durable Goods