Content warning: This article refers to a serious sexual assault that readers may find upsetting.
The big week is approaching fast. It’s the first Cannes Lions back since lockdown, and the buzz is palpable. I can feel the fizz of pre-Cannes planning – boat trips, pool parties and beautiful meals are all on the horizon.
I've been at lunches where impulse villas and flights have been booked, and the FOMO is really setting in.
I've naturally always had a bit of anxiety before heading out to the sunny adland festival of film. If Cannes counts as a "sales trip" for you, it's a lot of hard work. You spend the week running around trying to get everyone you know into the hottest parties, restaurants, boats and islands (while thinking all the while “lol, as if this is our lives…”).
You don’t want to miss out on the memories with your new "Cannes friends", and you sure as hell don't want to be the rep that can't get in anywhere.
But this isn't about my fear of missing out, or my PTSD over not getting wristbands to the shots party.
This is about the other side of Cannes. And ways you can keep yourself and your teams safe among the haze of rosé and sunshine.
In 2019, at Cannes, I was raped by a local person on the beach at 6am.
I’m not alone in having an awful experience at Cannes. I've since heard tons of horror stories – of people being assaulted, mugged, beaten up and more.
And it has been happening right under our noses for all these years.
People probably feel ashamed, embarrassed, broken by these situations, and so this side of Cannes never really comes to light. But I believe talking about these things is one way we can make these events a better, more accessible place for our industry as a whole.
Knowing it’s happening and keeping an eye out for others is key.
Plan, budget, team up
Here are a few steps we can all take before embarking on our Cannes Lions festival experience, whether you're a seasoned expert, you're responsible for a team or it's your first time. It’s time to talk about this properly.
Plan: OK, so you're sending a team out to Cannes. Have you set an itinerary? Do you know where you and your team are staying? Do you know how you’re travelling around Cannes? Have you booked in your meals for each day? Who are you meeting and when?
It sounds simple, but not having a plan can drop you in an awkward and unsafe position in a country with which you aren't massively familiar. Things like planning meals are vital. If you will be drinking a lot, you shouldn’t be skipping food. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon.
Which leads me to my second point. Budget: have you budgeted? And does your budget include travel? One of the main reasons my friend and I decided to go to the beach that night was because neither of us had money for a cab, so we decided to walk home that way.
If you’re chaperoning a team around a different country at weird hours, you need to keep them safe. I've seen agencies hire taxi services, chauffeurs or buses for the week.
But as an individual, make sure you always have money on you, because you do not want to be stuck in a situation where you can't pay. You might not have the budget for a chauffeur, but make sure you always have a reliable way of getting home and money just in case.
Team up and look out for others. Make sure you’re never on your own (I know it sucks to say, because I love taking a moment to grab some fresh air outside the party). And if you see something happening that's not right, call it out.
It’s not enough to just think “they’re drunk, I’ll leave them to it…” Do you think that person is in danger or about to do something stupid? Does someone seem uncomfortable? It’s always worth checking in on them – take a friend with you while you do.
These might seem like pretty basic life things to think about when you travel somewhere with work. But considering these things before you go (or before you send someone) will help keep everyone safe.
I've been shocked by how often bad things happen at Cannes. I've had people tell me stories of having their houses/villas/rooms broken into and their things stolen. Others have had bank cards taken out of pockets, and even been brutally beaten up on the street.
Cannes is an opportunity to celebrate the incredible work our industry does, and sometimes it's just nice to blow off some rosé-coloured steam.
But we need to start looking out for one another, our colleagues and even ourselves a little bit more. So we can all enjoy everything Cannes has to offer.
Cannes Lions has a "Be Safe" page on the "Festival Support" section of its website that includes a number of safety recommendations. The festival organisers will also display safety advice in the official app, in other delegate communications and at in-person events during the course of the week at Cannes.
For free, confidential and impartial advice and support, for anyone working in the advertising, marketing and media industry, call the Nabs Advice Line on 0800 707 6607, 9am-5.30pm on week days or email [email protected].
If you are an employer who wants to help tackle sexual harassment, Nabs' TimeTo training sessions are designed to do just that. Sign up, and one of the expert trainers will deliver a two-hour interactive session. They’ll give practical guidance on sexual harassment at work to increase your staff’s understanding of what is and what isn’t acceptable in the workplace.