Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Marketing the Marketers: Making Cannes work for you

All Rosé and yachts, or some of the most highly concentrated work you’ll do during the year? Cannes certainly does conjure up an image of adland on its holidays but it is a costly event to both run and attend, and there are cheaper ways of getting a tan and some Côtes de Provence. There is also plenty of evidence that attending Cannes delivers a serious boost in terms of potential partnerships, networking and securing future business.

In our latest Marketing the Marketers event New Digital Age brought together a panel of Cannes veterans to discuss how to make the most of your time on the Croisette, arriving with a strategy in place and demonstrating value for money.

“You have to be clear on the objective and clear with the business about what it expects from the  the people attending Cannes,” explains Jessica Littlemore, Head of Marketing, GTM at The Channel Factory. “Cannes is a big industry ticket, and you bet that people attending will have very clear targets they’ll need to reach. After, there will always be a post-event debrief that is well documented and will be very well referenced.”

Littlemore acknowledges that it’s not always easy to “tick off a multimillion dollar deal”, but that a meticulous process should help demonstrate value. Value that Alice Beecroft, Senior Director, Global Strategy & Partnerships at Yahoo, notes is not something you can always express with a dollar sign.

“The majority of conversations taking place are laying the infrastructure for partnerships that will come to fruition in 12 months to two years’ time,” she notes. “But there does have to be accountability.”

The key thing about Cannes is access. It’s an event that everyone has made time in their calendar to attend – all at the same time. For the other 51 weeks of the year, whether you’re an agency, a partner brand or a journalist, trying to get face time with a single CMO, let alone 12 of them in the same room, is an uphill battle. And there’s the rarity factor too.

“We might have 10 CMOs at a roundtable that we’ve helped organise for them. There is a partner on board who is getting access and facetime with these key people and as a journalist, I enjoy those conversations, even though it’s a controlled environment. Because otherwise, these people might not be speaking on the record at all,” reveals Gideon Spanier, Editor of Campaign.

Knowing what you want and might get out of attending Cannes is only part of the equation. Beecroft suggests that people underestimate how much preparation they need to do before they even head for the Departure gate.

“You have to look at it from a military perspective. Send a range of people, not just sales. Lock people in for meetings quickly, because everyone is trying to do the same. Double the amount of time you think you’ll need.”

Littlemore agrees: “It isn’t just a sales drive. People might want to talk to product teams to learn more about tech. But don’t try to do everything, just try to do a few things really well.” She adds that this is also an opportunity to show staff they are valued and that yes, Cannes has value as a perk. “People know they don’t have to be a salesperson to get a seat at the table.”

Keeping diversity front of mind is also crucial. “Are we doing a good job of being inclusive?” Spanier asks. From speakers and panellists to the people invited to the parties, Cannes participants have to actively think about D&I to move the industry forward. “Every aspect of business is under scrutiny and you can change the mix quite quickly. But if you don’t try, nothing happens.”

Ironically for a communications industry, Beecroft claims that companies aren’t that great at communicating what is going on at Cannes to their representatives. She suggests that businesses sending delegates make sure there is a way of accessing and sharing the huge amount of content beyond the mainstream agenda, so if there’s an hour free they can go and get involved in something new. Despite the crammed schedule, there is still space for serendipity.

For companies planning on hosting events at Cannes, it’s tempting to get caught up creating a showstopper, when they really need to think about who they’re holding it for – the audience. Speaking to salespeople months before the event to get their clients onboard to attend panels and discussions is crucial. “If you’ve got that databse of people you know are going to be there and are interested then you get more ROI than doing panels in an empty room – which happens all too often,” Herridge warns.

Not everything can be planned with military precision – planned meetings can go wrong, meetings crop up with nowhere to hold them. Littlemore advises having a couple of reservations in your back pocket so you can take advantage of bumping into people and arranging a spontaneous meet. “The best laid plans can go awry, though. You just have to roll with it.”