Industry vets’ dos and don’ts of Cannes

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

Once again, the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity is nearly upon us. For attendees, it’s a rush of meetings, panels, awards, parties and nights at the Gutter Bar, all while trying to keep it relatively professional.

As you ready your summer linen and prep for the chaos of the Croisette — which will likely be even more chaotic than usual with the Olympic Torch relay scheduled to pass through Cannes on Tuesday afternoon — we’ve prepared another guide with wisdom from Cannes veterans to help inform on everything from packing and scheduling to on-the-ground behavior. Here’s that dose of Cannes reality, with suggested dos and don’ts from those who’ve seen it all before:

Rob Reilly, global chief creative officer, WPP

Do: If anyone is willing to pay for you to go to a Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, that is a do because that is a magical place. It’s about 40 minutes away, you take a car there, but when you get there you really feel like you’ve made it.

Do: If you’re a judge, do have the utmost integrity. This is the highest profile position you’ll ever be in when it comes to judging a work show. You are picking the work that’s going to be part of a time capsule for the rest of time, for lack of a better phrase. So it is important that you take it seriously, you watch all the case studies, you treat all the work with respect too.

Don’t: Mess with the local French. The locals are working their asses off and you’re coming into their town. Of course, we’re there and it’s a resort town. So they’re very aware that this is what keeps the economy going. But if you try to go to an area that you’re not supposed to go into, if you try to skirt one of the systems or if you’re rude to one of the locals because you’re feeling entitled, you will get a very nasty response. They don’t mess around. It’s their town, you’re a guest, treat it as such.

Don’t: Subject anyone to anything rude or inappropriate, regardless of how much you’ve drank or how big a job you think you have. Respect is still the No. 1 thing.

Don’t: If you’re a judge, don’t try to lobby. Don’t make any deals. You’ll never be invited back. Cannes is always watching. You are auditioning to be part of your next jury. We know the pressure is high for you to win or for your company to win. But people work hard and it should be done fairly. We all want to win. But the most important thing is that the industry wins. So protecting the integrity of the show, making sure that the work that’s being awarded is the work that’s moving the industry forward and has a big impact on whether it’s business or society.

Jamie Shuttleworth, chief strategy officer, Dentsu Creative

Do: Go beyond the award-winning work and dig into the content that explores the intersection between creativity and effectiveness. In my opinion, it’s the most interesting thing happening in our industry.

Don’t: Waste the time you will inevitably be spending in lines. Some of the most interesting people you will meet might be standing right next to you, so say hi, and make random connections — you never know where they might go.

Campbell Ewald’s CCO, Silmo Bonomi

Do: Plan ahead. Check the talks you really want to attend and arrive early to secure a good seat.

Do: Attend the awards ceremony. Even if you’re not receiving an award, the winning energy is palpable and motivating.

Do: Go with the flow. Leave room for spontaneous events and surprises to enhance your experience.

Do: End your night at the Gutter Bar (Martinez para nós, Latinos…VAMOS!): A fun, laid-back spot for a warm (albeit expensive) beer with friends in a friendly atmosphere.

Don’t: Don’t try to turn conversation into a job interview. Take the time to meet new people and have a conversation. You can reach out for a job later.

Lindsay Bennett, vp of communications, Gale

Do: Plan outfits in advance. Cannes can be a tough event to pack for. It’s incredibly hot, it’s a work event and you’re in the South of France, which has its own dress code altogether. I typically put together a PowerPoint of all my outfits, which has helped me cut down what I pack by half and saves so much time every morning in Cannes.

Do: Make time for a visit to a French pharmacy. They have amazing skincare and I can vouch for the Embryolisse Crème Concentré, Nuxe oil and the La Roche-Posay tinted sunscreen.

Do: Stock up on electrolytes. Between the rose and the sweating, you’ll need them!

Don’t: Overdo it on the first night. Cannes is a marathon, not a sprint.

Don’t: Wear new shoes. Make sure you’re packing tried and tested footwear.

Grace Teng, Chief Media Officer, Scale by Zambezi (the agency’s media arm)

Do: Have clear goals. Before my trip last year, I made sure there were three things I wanted to hit. I was very clear about these three goals. I wanted to meet clients, I wanted to meet more senior level people and I wanted to have fun.

Do: Get on a panel if you can. That’s the best exposure.

Don’t: Don’t be afraid to be out of your comfort zone. You’re just going to be in situations where it’s not comfortable or you feel out of your depth but don’t worry. It’s ok to just listen.

Kaleeta McDade, global chief experience design officer, VML

Do: Wear linen. Linen is your friend.

Do: Network with people at your level. Manage across the people that are at your level and up and coming. That’s the future and those are the people and that’s really where you build those relationships. When you’re there, I would definitely say be present but be present with everyone. Don’t just be brown-nosed. Work your way across and get to know people because that’s really the power of Cannes.

Do: Remember to be professional. You don’t know who your next boss or your next job is going to be. They’re probably there and in that room. So I always tell people it’s fun to party, it’s fun to do all these things, but it is a work trip and there’s levels and … you never know who’s watching you. You never know what they’re taking from your interaction, from your demeanor, from what you’re doing. There’s a lot of people who are hired and fired at Cannes.

Don’t: Go hard the first couple of days. This is a marathon. This is a damn long marathon. I’ve seen so many people who are there Sunday night, Monday night, they are there and then by Wednesday I’m like, blink twice if you need some saving. So do not go hard.

Nick Miaritis, chief client officer at VaynerMedia

Do: Use Cannes as a … study of advertising that has gone on in the past year. It’s still the most interesting application of Cannes because you have dedicated hours that you normally don’t have to walk the basement of the Palais and see all of the write ups of the advertising, watch all of the case studies and really reflect on what you can take and use to make your business or brand grow the next year. So, do walk in the halls.

Don’t: Don’t stay super far away from the Palais. The experience is a lot better when you’re closer in. The past few years some people have been staying at chateaus in the mountains or having to drive in making getting back and forth difficult.

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