Losing my virginity in Cannes

Losing my virginity in Cannes

My first ever visit to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, was like losing my virginity. Just like the first time, I'd thought about it a lot, wondered what it would be like and the anticipation turned out to be much better than the actual event. When it happened, it seemed to be over in a flash, but just like the first time, it made a deep impression on me, something that will be difficult to forget in a hurry.

As an agency, we've entered the Cannes Lions Awards every year, we've had jury members, won a Gold Lion, had two Young Lions, and yet, in nearly 30 years in the business, I had never visited. I always believed it was something to be avoided, to be enjoyed by others with more time on their hands, while I got on with the real business. So this year, Richard Marshall and I made the pilgrimage to the South of France. 

For anyone out there who's never heard of the Cannes Lions, it's the premier international festival of creativity. Indeed, last year it changed its name from 'Advertising' to 'Creativity', to reflect the wider scope of our industry which I applaud, considering the overwhelming advertising agency presence at Cannes.

The event consists of three main parts.  These are a continuous stream of seminars, workshops and lectures, an awards event, attracting some of the best work in the world and a MASSIVE PARTY!

Attending the seminars and workshops gave me a fair indication of the sentiment of the creative industries. Presentations on social media, mostly saying the same thing 'the world has changed completely', 'we can no longer presume an audience's attention', 'participation platforms' etc etc. Not a huge surprise to me, but good to see the advertising community finally waking up to the new world. I attended many of these seminars, including an interesting presentation by a Japanese creative consultancy called 'Party'. I loved its premise that 'new stories are crafted by new technologies'. Its creative director and founder, Morihiro Harano in a wonderful linguistic iteration declared: 'if you're doing shit… stop doing shit!' very profound I thought. The work they showed was truly excellent, and refreshing, it's not surprising to me that awards are being won by these sorts of companies, ones that have defied the conventions set up by the large advertising agencies. 

The Cannes Lions Awards are apparently the reason for its existence. This year, there were over 30,000 entries in nearly 20 categories. What is interesting is where the entries are coming from, and who's getting on the shortlists. I was there for the first three days, and at that stage, the largest number of shortlisted entries were from Brazil (236), followed by USA (175) and Germany (171). The UK was at 104 shortlisted entries, while countries like the United Arab Emirates, Colombia and Chile were not far behind.  In fact the most noticeable thing about the Cannes Lions is how global and multicultural the event is. The other great Cannes activity is partying. The whole of the Croisette beachfront is taken up with different agency and group events. The famous 'Gutter bar' was a little disappointing, and a lot expensive. The feeling I get from Cannes is that it is a good opportunity for the big network agencies to get together, and why not? It probably saves agency groups millions in other forms of global get-togethers.

So will I be back next year? Well, having saved myself for so many years and finally succumbed, I'm definitely going to take advantage of my new passion, even if I'll make sure I practice safe Cannes.


  • Sounds like a real voyage of discovery! It's good to see you and Richard back in one piece.
    Louisa Papachristou - 27/06/2012