Clients value Cannes and find it inspirational

GroupM's Greg 'Sparrow' Graham
By GroupM's Greg 'Sparrow' Graham | 27 June 2016
GroupM marketing & new business director, Greg Graham.

It’s easy to criticise Cannes, the celebrity hoopla and associated party scene. However, I find most of the naysayers have never experienced it. So I challenge Mark Ritson, of Melbourne Business School fame and Cannes sceptic, to attend the festival next year and make an informed opinion on its value for marketers.

There has been plenty of comment on what some people regard as the lack of relevance of celebrity speakers and the nightly parties hosted along the Croisette for the duration of the International Festival of Creativity. The celebrities are obviously there because they generate PR for the event – think of them like the festival equivalent of click bait.

If you think the celebrity sessions are frivolous, simply don’t attend those sessions. There are endless quality sessions at various streams and countless insightful speakers outside of the celebrity guests. I attended some fantastic sessions, not just on the main stage but also sessions in the new Entertainment stream and at the Cannes Beach area with The Economist.

The parties are similarly not mandatory. Just like the celebrity sessions, you are free not to attend. Personally, I think they add to the buzz and excitement of the festival and clients enjoy the total immersive experience both day and night. More importantly, the parties are a great forum for festival attendees to discuss the day’s inspirational moments, share experiences and better get to know like-minded people from different parts of the globe.

After talking to multiple major clients at the festival, I think the top three things they really value are:

1) Inspiration from the eclectic mix of speakers that share great learnings and compelling stories. From Keith Weed, Unilever chief marketing and communications officer, to Hollywood director Oliver Stone and pop icon Iggy Pop, where else but Cannes would you get that weird mix of views that expand your thinking and just might ignite an idea or business opportunity in the future?

2) Exploring shared business challenges with other global marketers and finding common ground and shared solutions. Networking with your peers and talking about your goals, ambitions and the desire to do better work that drives sales has to be a good thing. That may not always eventuate in the darkened Lumiere Theatre, however if it happens over a glass of rosé at The Martinez so be it.  

3) Getting ahead of a trend or gaining a competitive edge on a new tech solution is a valuable advantage. VR was everywhere at this year’s festival and Samsung, a worth Marketer of the Year, certainly owned it. Actually experiencing several examples of the technology can be used in travel and real estate really bought VR’s applications for clients to life for me and convinced me of its long-term viability. Before I experienced this for myself, I thought VR was primarily for gamers or a fad or stunt.  

Another valuable aspect of the festival, for both clients and agencies, is the learning opportunities it provides our best talent. I was involved once again as a mentor in the Lions School and Academies. The industry’s top talent from nearly 100 countries were inspired by the very best masters in our industry globally and did some amazing work on a real live brief for Mondelez. This was incredibly rewarding for both the participants and the client, plus we all got to work with the legend Keith Reinhart. 

Cannes is attracting more clients every year because it delivers real value. So don’t listen to the critics – experience it for yourself and make up your own mind. 

By Group M marketing and business director, Greg Graham

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