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To Cannes Lions, with love

A practical guide to advertising's crazy week

Salut Cannes! It’s our industry’s annual crazy week on the Riviera and there’s no shortage of rosé and sunshine. I wrote this extremely practical list ahead of Cannes last year for a few of our clients and partners; it was a hit and I figured I’d dust it off this year and share it with everyone who may be wondering where to buy a replacement shirt since their luggage got misplaced or if Cannes has any working supermarkets after 8pm (yes!). Enjoy.

Let’s face it: when you tell someone you’re off to Cannes for a week-long conference and are juggling beach, villa, and yacht party invites you probably don’t elicit much sympathy. The inherent glamour of Cannes hides a rather grueling and demanding week that, if done right, can be a huge driver for your business, professional relationships, and career. Here are a few of the nitty-gritty things that I’ve found helpful during this crazy week:

 

  1. Walkabout – Cannes is not a big place and walking from one end of the Croisette to the other is a 15-20 minute affair. Plan to walk first since getting a taxi can be somewhat of a competitive sport. Boat shoes and espadrilles are a better fit for this event than high heels; allow time for random run-ins and spontaneous catchups in your schedule – this is where you might find the most value from Cannes.
  2. Beware the afternoon outdoor session – the sun in the south of France can be deceptively strong and it’s not worth risking heatstroke to talk about industry outlook.  Whether you’re on stage slowly melting or in the audience remember the basics: sunscreen, plenty of water, and hats.
  3. Private conversations – there will be many prying eyes on the Croisette and if you’re looking to have a truly private conversation with a client or prospect your best option is to head towards the old city (if you’re looking at a map of Cannes this is the area to the left of Vieux Port & Palais) and hide among the tourists. For something even more private head out to Mougins or Antibes (both a ~20 minute drive).  
  4. Creative vs tech? Depending on which side of the industry you’re on you’re asking one of two questions: what’s up with the Palais, or what’s up with Yacht Row? In Cannes this gap between the creative and execution sides of our industry is perhaps more viscerally visible than usual because it translates to physical space. Go see the other side: if you have a conference pass wander through some sessions (there are always interesting people from all walks of life on stage); if most of your agenda is tied to Palais activities, make sure you wander out and meet some folks on the ad tech side too. Perhaps if more of us do so that gap between our two worlds gets smaller next year
  5. Where to go? That yacht and villa invite sure sound appealing – what a great problem to have! But both can be big time commitments and if you’re trying to get a lot done an afternoon away or a whole day at sea may sound appealing but be counterproductive to your conference goals. Choose wisely.
  6. Where do I find….?  If you need something in a pinch Rue d’Antibes is where you’ll find everything from a Zara to a plethora of lovely boutiques that sell impossibly flowy dresses, espadrilles, and other unique Riviera staples. You’ll find the high-end designers along the Croisette but their stock generally tends to trail behind the season. There’s one supermarket that’s open late: a Monoprix by the open-air Gambetta market (on Place Gambetta) 
  7. If all else fails, there’s a bus – this one has proven to be an unexpected and welcome savior and is especially applicable if you’re traveling back on Friday or Saturday. On high-traffic days in Cannes it can be near-impossible to find a taxi or an Uber (which will cheekily greet you w/ wait times of 90+ minutes). There’s a magical bus (the Cannes Express 210) that leaves from the train station & takes you to the airport in just under an hour. The magic works both ways – the bus is a great option for getting from the airport in Nice to Cannes especially if you’re traveling on your own and/or staying near the train station (and most of the major hotels are walking distance).

 

Have fun, get some sun, and close some deals!

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