Michael Lee: is it time for clients to show at Cannes?

I spent a very intriguing, educational, eye-opening, exhausting, and of course pleasant (it is the Cote d’Azur after all) few days at the Cannes Festival of Creativity recently.

This year, it was bigger than ever, some say too big. (I understand that the Advertising Festival is now bigger, and makes more money than the Film Festival). And following the trends of the past few years saw record numbers of clients attending, many for the first time.

Cannes now is quite the mélange of media giants, tech giants (is there a difference these days?) global ad networks, big-datahuggers, celebrity speakers, agencies big, medium and small, app developers……and marketers.

It appears that the festival of creativity is now a festive combo of Advertising, CES, SXSW and Ted Talks.

Promenade down the Croisette and you’d bump into the giants of the communications world: YouTube, Facebook, a double decker of a building for Google on the beach that’s aptly named ‘Sandbox’ (below) and a similarly sized Microsoft show next door. The Ad networks were on their best behaviour, my favourite being the quite ingenious and crowded Havas Café. Slip into the Palais and you could catch Kanye West expounding on brand loyalty, or Courtney Love on music in a discussion with Grey’s Tor Myhren.
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Right outside were a batch of new technology companies pitching that new technology to clients and agencies featuring new ways to engage, entice, fascinate and track their consumers.

And all this led to a thought.

Should clients be investing in the same ways? Could they also create marquee spaces alongside all of the above?

And in fact, should they? I heard from more than one ad exec (none to be quoted obviously) who believed it was high time for clients to start contributing to the festival beyond the delegate fee. That they are the major benefactors of new fresh offerings, ideas and thoughts and it was time to be more than observers and benefactors of all this investment.

Alrighty then….

Certainly clients have the clout and confidence, likely the ambition, and indeed the right to do this. I suppose the big question is what would the content be from these major brands.

What would be their role be on “la Plage”?

Will American Express, Nike, Coca-Cola, Virgin, Ikea, Budweiser, AT&T, McDonalds, Unilever, (many of them Cannes Clients of the Year) be the next major contributor to the Cannes experience?

Could Coke contribute their knowledge on global community growth, (I’ve heard their CEO Muhtar Kent talk very eloquently and knowledgeably about the growth of cities around the world and the impact that is having on societies)?

Could Prudential Insurance be the catalyst for engaging conversations about generations to come?

Could Pfizer provide a backdrop for conversations on the growing health of us planet dwellers?

Could Virgin….could Ikea…..could Unilever……?

It could lead to some important and creative discussions and panels.

Who knows? Cannes is about ideas. It’s just a thought. One coming from a stroll down the Croisette and taking in all “La Plage” has to offer.

A bientot.

This post first appeared in Forbes.

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About Michael Lee

Michael Lee

Michael Lee is a former ECD of Euro RSCG New York handling Volvo Worldwide. Born in England, he spent 20 years working on integrated accounts including Intel, JP Morgan, ExxonMobil and Jaguar. In 2012 he set up agency search consultancy Madam.

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