Here are recommendations — and hacks for — Cannes 2023

Digiday covers that latest from marketing and media at the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. More from the series →

Congratulations (or is it commiserations?), you’ve made it to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity — a week-long spectacle where the ad world gathers to celebrate creativity, inflate egos and occasionally question their life choices. It’s like a blend of Comic-Con for marketers, the Oscars for advertising, and a really expensive summer camp for grown-ups with fancy job titles. 

Get ready for a week of relentless networking, mind-boggling presentations and so much alcohol that even the Great Gatbsy himself would blush. Don’t worry, though, because this refresher’s guide is your secret weapon to making it through the week with equal parts wit, sarcasm and a healthy dose of caffeine. 

First up, the basics — water and food

Ah, the sunny embrace of the south of France, where temperatures reach a toasty 20°C (68°F) in Cannes during this time of the year. Hydration is key, so take the sage advice of Gareth Holmes, the vp of commercial strategy and media at the streaming tech business SeenThis: stock up on water like a doomsday prepper. Consider preloading your room or accommodation with enough water bottles to quench your thirst throughout your stay.

And hey, if you’re feeling adventurous, take a stroll along Rue d’Antibes — the road that runs behind La Croisette on the seafront. You’ll stumble upon a treasure trove of convenience stores where you can stock up on essentials or even indulge in some French snacks to keep those hunger pangs at bay. After all, it’s crucial to nourish your body while gallivanting through Cannes, just like Holmes wisely advises. Remember, Cannes is not just about creativity and networking — it’s about surviving in style. So stay hydrated, eat like a champion, and conquer Cannes like the snarky ad warrior you are. 

Be prepared

The days — and nights — are long so Holmes recommends arming yourself with a trusty rechargeable battery-pack for your precocious phone and other electronic sidekicks. You don’t want your gadgets gasping for breath in the middle of a power-packed conversation, do you? And for the love of all things advertising, remember to snatch that charger cable before embarking on your daily escapades. Trust us, finding a spare cable in the midst of the Cannes chaos is like searching for a needle in a haystack made of sponsored swag.

But wait, there’s more to this survival tale! As you revel in the endless parade of glamorous events, keep in mind that pickpockets are lurking in the shadows, just waiting to snatch away your precious belongings. “Beware, those wallet-bearing back pockets are easy-picks for even an amateur thief,” said Holmes. “And if you’re carrying a bag, make it one with a zip, and ideally be held across your body in front of you.”

What to wear

Fashion in Cannes is all about nailing that perfect blend of business chic and beach-ready cool.

Imagine smart-casual outfits with an extra touch of flair, because let’s face it, Cannes is no place for fashion mediocrity. Nicole Kotseva, the social media maven from The Digital Voice and Influencer, has a fashion secret to spill. She advises rocking lightweight summer dresses, skirts with asymmetric hems (super trendy, darlings!), denim shorts, and a few breezy linen tops. And here’s Kotseva’s other hot tip: with the SS23 color palette at your fingertips, you can effortlessly elevate these wardrobe staples. Lime and lilac reign supreme this summer, radiating boldness and confidence. Don’t fret if they seem daring — Cannes is the perfect playground to “dare to wear.”

But wait, there’s more, courtesy of Phil Acton, the country manager of the U.K. for ad tech vendor Adform: “In terms of what to wear; I can only speak for myself but I’m always in shorts, mixed with smart T shirts, polo shirts and /or linen shirts. Espadrilles or Birkenstocks for me! And don’t forget your sunglasses and suntan lotion.”

Style in a Hurry

Calling all shopaholics and time-strapped fashion enthusiasts. Cannes has something for everyone. Head to La Croisette for luxury brands and high-end fashion. For a quick-fix, explore Rue d’Antibes with its mix of trendy boutiques and high-street brands. Don’t miss the Forville Market for local delights and unique finds. And if you need a beauty boost, indulge in French skincare and cosmetics that can be found in the department stores at La Bocca. Embrace the retail therapy at your own pace and make the most of your shopping adventure. 

Navigating yachts and beachside networking

Given that much of Cannes Lions’ takes place aboard yachts, and in beachside ‘huts’ there are some important nuances for those more used to networking in an urban setting. Michael Nevins, former CMO of France-based ad tech company Equativ, shares further insights from his four ‘tours of duty’ on the French Riviera.

“Bring sunscreen, bring a hat, bring nice socks as you often have to take off your shoes to board a yacht,” he advised, adding that bringing power adapters for French electrical outlet are a must in attendees’ packing priorities. “Don’t forget where you put your shoes. And make sure you don’t take somebody else’s by accident. I haven’t done this, but I know somebody who did.”

Cannes gastronomy

Satisfy your cravings in Cannes. Here are some must-visit spots:

  1. La Croisette: Upscale restaurants and chic cafés with breathtaking views.
  2. Le Suquet: Historic district with authentic French and Provencal cuisine.
  3. Marché Forville: Bustling market for fresh produce and tasty street food.
  4. Rue Meynadier: Lively street with local eateries and delightful pastries.
  5. Cannes’ Beach Clubs: Luxurious beachside experience with Mediterranean delights.
  6. Le Vieux Port: Harbor area offering fresh seafood and Mediterranean-inspired dishes.
  7. The Old Town (Le Suquet): Cozy bistros and wine bars for a charming dining experience.

Lastly, here is some solid advice best hacks for the festival from the minds of two of its most seasoned attendees: 

Tim Geenen, CEO and Co-founder of Rayn

I’d suggest renting a bicycle to get around, it’s so much more convenient and efficient then waiting for Ubers. But, make sure to lock it properly, as I managed to have mine stolen within 20 minutes. Last year there was also a lot of rain and it was extremely humid. Umbrellas are not in large supply, so get something like the Rainviewer app.

Daniella Harkins, svp of product GTM at LiveRamp 

Give yourself time to move from meeting to meeting. The Croisette — and getting from the Magestic to the Martinez — is longer than you think it is, and you need to leave time to say hi to folks on the street. You will see people you know everytime you step outside. Also, give yourself time to meet up with people organically. 

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