Matt Williams: Cannes – the calm before the storm

Matt Williams, head of content at Partners Andrew Aldridge, will be blogging from Cannes for MAA. Here he joins the early starters for the marathon 2015 International Festival of Creativity which kicked off with the Health Lions (below).


The strangest day of the Cannes Lions festival is without doubt the Sunday. Not strange in a “what the hell is that celebrity doing here/did you see that agency CEO expose himself to the entire Carlton Terrace” way, but strange in terms of the mix of atmospheres surrounding the area.

Some people have already been here a couple of days and have spent a whole day immersed in talks and work showcases.

Others are just arriving – half of whom are coming in relaxed and ready to start things properly on Monday, the other half seemingly baffled that the festival has actually already begun.

And then there’s a whole load of people who still won’t be in Cannes for another couple of days. They don’t have a ticket to the main auditorium, know that the big parties don’t kick off until Wednesday evening, and will be damned if they come over too eager by hitting the Croisette too early in the week.

It means Sunday night feels a bit in limbo. Even the early arrivals don’t want to show their hand too early and party too hard. We’ll just have dinner and a few drinks, right?

The festival organisers and sponsors recognise this too. Most of Sunday is spent surrounded by scaffolding, the noise of workmen hammering away becoming a regular feature as delegates tuck into their first (but definitely not last) rosés of the week.

These workmen are putting together stages and dance floors that seem to stretch across the whole of Cannes. Everywhere you look there’s a pop-up charging station or an oh-so-chic exhibition stall. I’ve been lucky enough to attend a number of Cannes now, yet even just a couple of years ago there was nothing like the amount of external attractions (i.e. events outside the Palais) as there seem to be now.

Little wonder then that the person who greeted me at the place I’m staying called the Cannes Lions “now the biggest week of our year….much, much bigger than the film festival. And I’ve never seen it like this.”

So whilst the atmosphere so far has been one of uncertainty, you sense that it won’t take long before the festival hits its stride. With much being promised, one can only imagine at this point what we’re going to encounter.


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