Helen Kimber: a headhunter’s guide to boost your career at the Cannes Lions


With some 15,000 attendees from 100 countries across eight days, the Cannes International Festival of Creativity – Cannes Lions – is the planet’s biggest gathering of the advertising, creative, digital and marketing world.

It’s also one of the biggest networking opportunities on earth, with a lot of glitz sprinkled into the mix – names appearing this year include the likes of Rev Jesse Jackson, Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Ian McKellen, Demi Lovato, Ron Howard and A$AP Rocky, ahead of the announcement of the coveted Cannes Lions Awards, the Oscars of creativity.

Celebs mingle with film producers, record label execs, TV commissioners, sports promoters, gamer geeks and creative people from all walks of life at the after parties. The biggest deals are done, most massive contracts signed and careers enhanced on the Cote d’Azur.

Recruiters and headhunters are also out in force to trawl the parties and bars and scout the best talent – and not just from the Lions winners.

Cannes can therefore be the perfect place to catch the eye (and ear) of someone who could help you land that dream job – if you make sure you’re seen at the ‘right’ places at the right time.

So if you’re heading there and fancy a career boost, here’s are my tips to truly make the most of your time – with or without a pass..

Places to be seen

The Carlton Terrace has long been THE venue for meeting up. On the downside, a change in rules restricting access to festival pass holders before 8pm, plus the eye-wateringly expensive bar prices and simultaneously terrible service means there are now alternatives.

For example, Le Voilier is the best place to snag a table in order to spot and then grab a drink with your contacts. On the opposite corner to the Carlton, nearly everyone at the Festival has to walk past it at some point.

The tables outside Pastis on Rue du Commandant Andre are perfect to catch people on their way to the Palais, where the festival is based. Similarly, it’s good in the evenings to catch those on their way out.

If you’re invited as a guest to the MediaCom Hospitality Suite, make it a priority. It’s the most spectacular venue on the rooftop of the Majestic hotel with some great speakers.

For places to see and be seen, La Colombe D’Or is difficult to beat, which is why everyone tries to secure one lunch up there – the setting is stunning too.

And it might be out of town, but Eden Roc at Hotel du Cap is the encapsulation of the Cote D’Azur. So cool, even the waiters wear matching shades. All the movers and shakers will be there at some point.

Other places you should try and hit up include: Shots party, CHI Boat, Campaign A List Party, Balearic or Baloney and The Gutter Bar (above) come 1am.

Professional tips

Cannes isn’t all about parties. Take time to network with colleagues – folk tend to be more relaxed in the South of France. It’s an opportunity to properly get to know them and talk about that pay rise or promotion.

Reintroduce yourself to the people who’ve impressed you before or who you most learnt from and sign up a mentor or two.

Pay attention. You will be exposed to the best creatives – and creativity – in the world. Make sure you make time to look at the work and form an opinion on it. Do your homework – the Campaign Daily Updates are a great crib sheet to work from.

Even if you don’t have a pass, there are often free events on offer. Learn from people, listen to the chat about winners and losers. Make the time to get to know people outside of your usual circles or discipline; we all need to know everything now after all.

Ensure you make breakfast meetings; they make you get up at a decent time.

Take at least one portable phone charger. It’s perilous to charge your phone in bars and a total disaster if your phone dies.

Have plenty of cash as taxis are extortionate and villa parties can be quite a long way away. If you go to one, pre book a return to avoid being stranded.

Use social media

When #CannesLions trends, Twitter become clogged with soundbites gleaned from sessions inside the Palais. Try and avoid becoming part of the noise unless you have something genuinely interesting to add. But stay abreast of what others – particularly news outlets – have to say about the goings on.

Twitter is great for enhancing your brand with well-informed or ‘knowing’ observations as well as connecting and networking with others. Don’t be afraid to share some of your experiences – it will show the power of your network and your knowledge of the business.

Instagram is a great place to discover and share some of the events – formal and informal.

Uploading an informed post-Cannes analysis or observation piece on your LinkedIn will also show that you’re not just there for the parties.

Helen Kimber is managing partner of The Longhouse.

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