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Conquering Cannes: A Marketer’s Survival Guide

June 12, 2023

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is right around the corner, bringing together the brightest minds in marketing to discuss the future of the industry. This once-a-year chance is the ultimate opportunity to be creatively inspired, forge new connections and elevate your professional profile. But planning for Cannes can be a convoluted mess of conflicting calendar invites, transportation challenges and more networking events than you can count. 

Cannes can be conquered — however, this takes careful planning, both before and throughout one of the busiest, most exciting weeks of the year for advertisers and marketers. 

Prior to Cannes

Prior to setting foot on French soil, planning is the name of the game. You’ll want to make sure that you have an organized calendar of events — the event venue itself is massive, not to mention the overwhelming number of off-site activations occurring around town. 

Talia Arnold, managing director at Exverus, cautions planning everything, even catch-ups, in advance: “Set up a calendar link to schedule 1:1 meetings with people ahead of time, otherwise you may never catch them.” 

That in mind, you’ll want to sign up for everything you can— there are a number of lists available gathering everything from activations, to speaking engagements and parties. In addition, there are a number of Cannes-specific groups— for example, you should invite any women in your organization to join the Women at Cannes 2023 Whatsapp Group. Taking the time to explore these groups, sign up for event lists, and sign up for whatever is available will give you a pool of event options from which to plan your days. From there, you’ll want to determine your tentpole obligations, and build out additional activities around them. 

Bari Komitee, VP of B2B Advertising at The New York Times suggests well-scheduled days, but a more spontaneous experience in the evening: “Book your days well but keep your nights flex. Be prepared to walk. A lot. And be prepared to be in two or three places at once.” 

Of course, in addition to parties and networking — doubtlessly hot-ticket items— you’ll also want to make sure you build in time to check out the work itself. A solid tip is to plan at least two events you’d like to see at the main pavilion. Make sure that you’ve built at least 30 minutes into your schedule beforehand, as the festival has extensive security procedures for these events, particularly headlining speakers such as Martin Sorell, Gary Vanderchuck and Marc Pritchard. 

During Cannes 

The festival itself will be physically taxing. Each day will most likely include long walks in the hot sun, in business casual attire. In addition to your mental preparations and scheduling, you’ll want to ensure that you are prepared for the festival, physically. 

  • Beat the Heat 
    • Cannes is famously known for its high temperatures. While this can be a welcome escape while laying poolside, it becomes a bit trickier in a business context. Cannes veterans advise making linen a wardrobe staple, and bringing comfortable shoes for daytime treks. 
  • Watch the Rosé
    • Rosé all day sounds fun in theory, but it can backfire. Drinks are served early at Cannes, but you’ll want to pace yourself. Hydration is key, especially during the blazing-hot days, so stick to non-alcoholic drinks as you’re going from place to place. For socials and networking events, where a drink in hand feels like part of the attire, consider going with a mocktail, instead. 
    • In a similar vein, Josh Golden, CMO at Quad cautions to eat food when you see it — “You never know when you are going to see it again.” 
  • Transport Safely 
    • Cannes is a large venue, so having some kind of transportation measure in place will be essential as you attempt to navigate to your obligations. However, Cannes attendees report rideshare apps being famously unreliable, and advise the use of a black-taxi service. Having your organization form a buddy-system in advance can also be useful. Women in your organization should aim not to ride alone, at night. 

Finally— trust those who have been there, previously. Winston Binch, chief brand and experience officer at GALE, is a seasoned Cannes attendee. “Cannes is an endurance challenge. The heat is intense, the volume of content is overwhelming, and the wine’s overflowing. Like any good long-distance athlete, pace yourself. Make a plan. What do you want to accomplish? If you don’t leave inspired, you failed.”