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I recently attended the Cannes Lions 2011, the first time I have attended. Held at the Palais de Festivals (also where the film festival is held), it is the largest gathering of professionals from the advertising and creative industry. Around 8,000 attendees from all around the advertising world descend on the south of France for a mixture of seminars, awards ceremonies and networking events.
There was a wide mix of seminars on show, with as would be expected a heavy influence from the digital spectrum. This included contributions from all the big players including Google, Facebook and Microsoft, the latter having a very strong presence throughout the week including both branding and number of events they held. Microsoft’s main talk concentrated on Kinect and the potential to radically change the way we interact with digital media. Facebook’s main focus was on the strength of the social referral. VP of Global Marketing Carolyn Everson commented, “When a friend recommends a product, a consumer is 4x more likely to complete purchase…a recommendation from your friend is the most powerful form of advertising.”, no doubt with an eye on the social search battle looming with Google.
Facebook also announced at the festival, the new Commenting ad tool developed in part by Leo Burnett Chicago. The new Comment ad unit lets brands and pages start conversations among their social graph by posting a video, photo, link or status and allowing people to respond. Facebook also used the opportunity to announce the formation of a 12-member client council of advertisers and marketers in a form of think-tank, to help Facebook best service agencies and brands. Meanwhile Google chairman Eric Schmidt was named Cannes Lion Media Person of the Year 2011.
Other seminars to note included one of my favourite authors Malcolm Gladwell, who I also had the pleasure of meeting. Gladwell spoke about the idea that it was not innovators but “tweakers and implementers” who turn great ideas into successful businesses. Steve Jobs had become successful not by being early but by being late, by adapting the ideas of others to benefit consumers, Gladwell said. Think of Google, which did not invent search, or Facebook, which did not invent the social network. His conclusion: We should put less emphasis on innovation and more emphasis on tweaking and implementation.
As my colleague Andrew spoke about in a previous post, it wasn’t to be our year at the 2011 Lions. Nevertheless, there were some great entries especially in the Cyber Category, including 3 Grand Prix recipients which included Old Spice, Arcade Fire/Google – The Wilderness Downtown, and Pay with a Tweet.
I can’t argue with the Old Spice and Arcade Fire/Google entries. They were easily my favourite pieces of work over the past 18 months. Another favourite was Nikes’s “Write the Future” spot for the World Cup which won a Grand Prix in Film.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much success for Irish entries this year. From a quick review, I didn’t see a shortlisted entry from an Irish agency, much less a winner, which is a shame.
From my observations of the festival, the main draw for the majority of visitors is the “networking” (Please note the use of inverted commas). Apart from the seminars and awards, there are an abundant number of parties, pre parties and after parties each night of the festival. From Facebook beach parties, to Young Dutch Creative parties to Russian agency balls. Most of, if not all of the sponsors throw a number of events to cater for attendees and clients alike. Several people I met had visited Cannes merely for the networking opportunities and without purchasing a ticket for the festival. This is however completely understandable given the price for attending (ranging from €1,550 for a 3 day registration to €2250 for a full week for a single tickets. Young Lions registration ranges from €590, to €1025 for a full week).
The Lions are a great opportunity for making new contacts across the supply chain, and the value to agencies cannot be understated. Several people stated they had never seen so many client side attendees at the Lions as this year. Business cards were handed out for fun, and several mornings I woke up with a handful of business cards from the night before (with no idea where I’d met this person). Handy for helping certain visitors piece together the night before, reminiscent of a scene from The Hangover movie.
There were some very interesting people attending and we were lucky enough to meet a good crew from a few U.S. production companies namely Bucky Boys and Beast, who we “networked” with on a number of occasions, and hope to meet up with at SXSW 2012 for some further “networking”.
Just a word of caution, the local hotels and bars really jack up the prices for Lions week. In one location, the Carlton Terrace I paid €14 alone for a bottle of Heineken, although I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the price all year round for this particular establishment, it is Cannes after all!
After the official events had ended, most people retired to the infamous Gutter bar, named affectionately so by the Mad Men who’ve been coming here for years. The Gutter Bar is the unofficial fall back place for the Lions festival goers, so much so it even had its own mobile app. This year it was taken over by Yahoo who (unlike Microsoft) went down the unofficial sponsorship route. Yahoo also had a pop-up bar directly opposite the Palais de Festivals. A nice bit of ambush marketing.
The Cannes Lions are a great event and I’d highly recommend getting over for a few days. I am hoping next year there‘ll even be enough from Irish adland to enter an Irish team in the Beach Football Competition. Hopefully we will also be in with a shout for a few Lions to add to the ICAN trophy cabinet. Our boss has even promised that she would send 10 ICAN’ers over next year (isn’t that right Siobhan). Roll on 2012.