Maria Garrido of Havas Media Group: my Top Tips for surviving the Cannes Lions festival

We’ve had lots of Top Tips For Cannes, interesting, we hope, even if you’re not into awards or Cannes. Three campaigns in particular have popped up regularly: ‘McWhopper’ from Burger King, REI’s ‘Opt Outside’ from the US retailer and Harvey Nichols’ ‘Shoplifters.’

If ‘Shoplifters’ wins big it will be a remarkable triumph for the upscale retailer – not a massive advertiser – and agency adam&eveDDB as, two years ago, their “I’m Sorry I Spent It On Myself’ campaign won a clutch of Grand Prix and made A&E Cannes’ Agency of the Year. It’s an ad too rather than something else masquerading as one.

12921d3If you are one of the thousands going to Cannes, as your correspondent is at the end of next week, Maria Garrido (left), Cannes Lions jury member and global chief insights & analytics officer at Havas Media Group, offers some top tips and best practices for staying sane and making the most of the frenetic event. Or you can just get drunk and top up the tan..

My Top Tips for Cannes

Each year thousands of creatives descend upon the relatively small city of Cannes with intentions of winning awards, winning clients and of course, celebrating the power of creativity. The festival is enriching, exciting and let’s be honest, exhausting. With over 13,000 attendees and 40,000 entries jockeying for the top spots in 24 categories, the week feels like a whirlwind of meetings, buzzwords, parties and networking.

To get the most out of the week, and keep your sanity intact, here are a few strategies to consider before jumping into the biggest week in advertising.

1/ Set important meetings before you arrive – Cannes is at least as much about the networking as it is about the awards, but you can’t expect it all to happen organically. To get the most out of the event, it’s important to do your research and think about who and what your priorities are. Ask important contacts to set some time aside for you. The most important people are the ones who will be the busiest, and you’ll be glad you got in early.

2/Leave some flexibility – You never know who you might meet in Cannes, so it’s crucial to leave some time for unexpected meetings and parties. The flexibility and fluidity of Cannes is part of its magic… don’t treat this as a normal week in the city.

3/Know your agenda – Think hard about what you hope to get out of the week, then break that down into goals for each meeting. Even if the meeting was requested by someone else, go into every conversation with clearly defined objectives in mind so that no one’s time is wasted.

4/Partner up – Strategise who the best people on your teams are for every meeting, whether they can lend expertise, or will learn something in the process. Cannes is an ideal opportunity to teach less experienced staff the fine art of schmoozing.

5/Stay organised – Create a detailed calendar, including maps of all of your meetings and parties to help you organise your time. Make use of the Cannes app, which has up to the minute details on talks and events, as well as a current listing of award winners, so you’ll know why certain people are partying way harder than others.

6/Be proactive about learning – Set goals for your meetings (really meeting, not just being introduced to). Try and meet one new person a day and be prepared to make conversation that goes deeper than small talk. Look at the events and talks and choose one each day that falls outside your job focus to expand your understanding of the industry and the state of innovation.

7/Find your zen – The potential for burnout is as real as the heat in Cannes, so take at least a few minutes each day to clear your head. Book a spa appointment, take a walk on the beach, sit for a few minutes on one of the blue benches along the beach – whatever it takes to stop talking or thinking about advertising and creativity for a little while and get some perspective.

8/Don’t stay out too late – Closing down the party always seems like a good idea at the time, then you’re sitting in a meeting the next morning with a splitting headache, wondering where your life went so wrong…

9/Avoid politics at all costs – The oldest advice in the book can be hard to remember when you’re deep in a week of non-stop socialisation. Its a big week for Europe with the vote in the UK on Thursday. While your colleagues from across the industry may all seem aligned on #Brexit or #Remain, you never know who you might encounter, or what the cost of a political argument with them may turn out to be.

10/Speak fluent Cannes – If you haven’t been before, learn the lingo before next week: Cannes, The Palais, The Croisette, The Gutter Bar… The Havas Cafe!

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