Last year there was a discernable and desired push for a move away from the Cannes Lions Festival being used by many as a location for meetings in darkened rooms with clients. Rather, it was argued that Cannes should be used as a place to learn and to be inspired.
Saatchi & Saatchi's worldwide chief executive Robert Senior neatly summed it up with the line, "Standing at the school gates of Cannes, rather than going into the classroom, will not help anyone’s learning." Quite.
But I’d argue there’s far more to Cannes than pure learning. Cannes isn’t a school, it’s not merely a seat of education. The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès might be the high church of creativity and there are gods and goddesses to be made but no one leaves Cannes with SAT scores, a Baccalauréat or A-levels in our craft.
This year, I’d argue that there is a deeper, more persuasive reason for the young, old and inbetweeners in our industry to experience Cannes. It represents an opportunity and it’s up to every business and every individual to use that opportunity as they see fit.
The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès might be the high church of creativity and there are gods and goddesses to be made but no one leaves Cannes with SAT scores, a Baccalauréat or A-levels in our craft.
Whether it be lectures in the Palais, awards ceremonies, lunches with clients, debates with carefully assembled panelists or sunset cocktails with global CEOs, we should embrace all that the Cannes week has to offer.
There is too much "you should do this at Cannes", "you should do that at Cannes". The beauty of Cannes is that we all willingly place ourselves in the most curious of environments. The seemingly anodyne and facile stage set for the corporate Côte D’Azure conferencing circuit punctured by creativity and (some) excess. J G Ballard would have had a field day with his pen.
The ultimate point of Cannes is creativity – and true creativity doesn’t come from prescribed solutions, from worrying about what you should be doing, or what everyone else is doing – but finding the best way to be creative and experience world class creativity – rooting out what and who inspires you.
So let’s stop being so prescriptive about what Cannes is and what Cannes isn’t. If you want to sit in a darkened room with clients who you don’t get to see much, then do it. If you want to sell some tech innovation, do it.
If you want to listen to pop-stars pout and posture, then do so. If you find inspiration elsewhere, embrace it. And if you’re one of the growing cohert of people who don’t benefit from agency or company sponsored attendance and take holiday and self fund a trip, all the more reason to follow your own instincts. Don’t be told.
There are debates to be had and debates to be led. Gender will be big this year and rightly so. We have our own J Walter Thompson global Female Tribes events but many other businesses have many equally worthy agendas worth engaging with. Last year I was invited to a game of Pétanques and I couldn’t go. I regret it enormously. Find what works for you and make the most if it. The boule’s in your court.