“Would you like to go to Cannes?” The words anyone in the advertising industry wants to hear from their boss’ mouth. And this year, I heard it. With some luckily-timed pitches, I was drafted onto the St Luke’s team headed to the 2019 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity at the last minute.
Like 99% of the ad industry, I had never been to Cannes. But I’d heard about it. The sun, the parties, the rosé, and, inevitably, the awards. I’d seen senior management swan off for a week, coming back with a slight tan that didn’t quite cover the lack of sleep and, occasionally, with a Lion under their arm.
What was this infamous place in the south of France where the advertising world, not just Soho, descended for a week? Was it going to be a Vegas pool party vibe or a bit more St. Tropez? These questions were highly important as I had to pack in 3 days. I was told 2 outfits a day and bring a swimsuit. Really, a swimsuit? Do people actually try and sell each other stuff while half naked? The answer was yes.
After deliberating to fake tan or not, we were off!
My first view of Cannes was not quite what I had envisioned. Scaling some precarious looking stairs to our cupboard box room…were we not staying in a 5* hotel? No.
Then onto the Little Black Book beach where I was pleased to see a lot of middle-aged people, slightly overweight and pasty. I felt right at home.
The first night was pretty tame as our CEO was preparing for his on stage debut for the IPA and DTI’s Createch Trade Mission to promote the UK advertising industry to the world.
Neil did a cracking job and it really did make you think about how privileged we are to work in a country where the ‘Creativity (really) is GREAT’.
I also went along to a talk held by Campaign, titled ‘the perfect balance; unpicking the client-agency relationship’, where Laurent Faracci, executive vice-president of RB Health and Harris Diamond CEO of McCann Worldgroup were chatting. I realised then that the agency-client relationship is very different at the top…
A major highlight was a night with the dream team from The Drum. We ate in the aptly names ‘Da Laura’ and partied the night away in The Drum Arms (a pop up pub the publication had opened for networking and fun away from the beach). I mean, where but Cannes could you spend a night with journalists from the biggest marketing website in Europe without it being moved 15 times and squeezing it in mid-week?
As the sun set over my time in Cannes (while on a speed boat on my way back from ‘The Island’ in a rosé-haze) I contemplated how lucky I was: lucky to work for an industry as fun as this one. Some days, mid-pitch with clients lighting up your phone, you can easily forget that. But Cannes reignited my passion for the work we do: solving problems through creativity. It made me raise my head above the day to day and really take note of the amazing work around the world that every agency should be striving to deliver for their clients. Yes, Cannes is a cliché – it’s indulgent and there’s lots our industry needs to improve; namely diversity. But would I go back again? Hell yes.
Laura Harris, Business Director