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A founder’s view of his first time in Cannes

I knew about the Cannes Lions; I knew it as a creativity festival where brands and creative agencies are awarded for their campaigns and initiatives. What I didn’t know before starting an ad tech startup is that it’s much more than that. So this year I decided to attend for the first time. 

First, let me make clear that I came here with no goals or objectives. I came here to see, take it all in and pretty much figure out what we should be doing as a company next year. 

I went to meetings, talks, panels, soirees, parties (Wednesday’s Yahoo party with Fatboy Slim on the decks was great) and pretty much did as much as I could. I saw people I hadn’t seen for over two years and met a lot of new people. Cannes is a great place to network, since everyone is there pretty much for the same reason, and this year at least, everyone was just pleased to be out in the world again. 

Cannes Lions left a great impression and now I’m already thinking about what we should be doing next year. 

So, after my rookie year in Cannes, here’s what’s now on my mind.

Have objectives and goals

Whatever it is, make sure you know what you’re going for. It could be anything you want, but make sure you figure this out before you go.

It might be partying, networking, attending panels and industry events, meeting with clients and partners – or a combination of the above. 

Figure out in advance what you’ll be pleased to achieve, share your goals with your team and urge them to set their own.

Be prepared

Now that you know what you want to achieve with your trip to Cannes, make sure to prepare for it. My advice is to start at least two months in advance. 

If it’s partying, make sure you find about all the parties and start planning how you’re going to get an invite. If it’s meeting with clients or potential clients, reach out to them early enough to see who’s going and who’s not – and actually set a meeting with them. Don’t just assume you’re going to run into each other. Likewise, if you’re hosting an event, do your homework to confirm that people are actually coming, and if they’re not, market yourself.

Obviously all this will be hard to do on your own, so you’ll need some help. Julia and the rest of The Digital Voice team have helped us a lot with everything.

New business? Not so much

If you’re a young ad tech company, don’t go to Cannes with the expectation that you’re going to be closing new clients. Most of the people you’re working with are probably not there, and the impression I got was that any new business meetings are set up well in advance by people who are just using Cannes as an opportunity to meet.

Have a plan B

There are a ton of events happening at the same time and some of them may be full by the time you get there. It’s always a good idea to have other options. If you have a back-up plan, you’re never at a loose end.

So that’s what I know, after one go round.

Maybe this year wasn’t your standard Cannes Lions. After two years of Covid and all its social deprivations, you could tell that everyone was happy just to be there this time – to meet with others in the industry, to explore opportunities, to just hang out over a cocktail or two.

All these are great pastimes in their own right, and they need to be enjoyed, but you also get out what you put in. Go to Cannes armed with a plan, and you’ll ensure all that fun also has purpose.