Matt Barker
Jun 14, 2024

What’s your one piece of advice for Cannes freshers?

Help is at hand with these tips and suggestions from a cross-section of Cannes veterans.

Clockwise from top left: James Murphy, Vicki Maguire, Jennifer Berry, Lucy Taylor, Dom Goldman, Marc Allenby, Katie Lee, Bill Scott. Centre: Dara Nasr.
Clockwise from top left: James Murphy, Vicki Maguire, Jennifer Berry, Lucy Taylor, Dom Goldman, Marc Allenby, Katie Lee, Bill Scott. Centre: Dara Nasr.

No one likes being the newbie. The awkward introductions, the turning up at the wrong party at the wrong time, the dress code faux pas (a nameless Campaign colleague once stepped off the plane in chunky knit sweater and woollen coat, though she may well have used her autumnal wear as an excuse to go shopping for something more suitable on the Rue d'Antibes).

Happily, help is at hand with these tips and suggestions from a cross-section of Cannes veterans, guiding you through various potential pitfalls and offering some vital pointers on festival etiquette.

You’ll notice a few patterns emerging. The Gutter Bar crops up a few times, as does the need for sensible footwear and the importance of regular rehydration (also note that few, if any, of our respondents, were able to stick to one singular bit of advice).

Most of all, though, it’s the encouragement to take inspiration from the whole buzzy experience, to take a bit of time to soak it all in and try to enjoy the moment.

Sadly, there can occasionally be a much darker side to Cannes week, an issue that Campaign has covered in recent years. The Cannes Lions website includes a Staying Safe section that has contact information and other advice, while a recent partnership with TimeTo included the launch of a Celebrating Safely guide and industry charity Nabs runs a confidential advice line.

James Murphy

Chief executive and founder, New Commercial Arts

Keep it nice, so you can get the most out of your time there. I found my first few Cannes so exciting that it was all a bit messy and I missed out on a lot of the creativity and innovation on show. And if you’re a bit outraged that you have to pay through the nose to be an official delegate, to book a hotel room that’s three times the usual rate and to get any access to the Palais or official events… fear not. There are more unofficial options for accommodation than ever and there is masses to do and learn on the Lions “fringe,” with tech brands and media owners the length of la Croisette showcasing and discussing the latest and greatest of the leading edge.

Vicki Maguire

Chief creative officer, Havas London

There are so many tips for newbies.

The Gutter Bar is called the Gutter for a reason. You may think it’s a good idea but it really isn’t. You realise that maturity has been achieved when you can sail past the braying throng without FOMO.

Respect the French. We are invading their town. Yes, we’re spending money but let’s not start a war. Say please and merci. It takes you a long way.

Hydrate. Don’t buy rosé at the airport. It tastes great on the Carlton Terrace but it loses its appeal in a park in Clapton.

Don’t eat on la Croisette. Go a couple of streets back. Your stomach and your wallet will thank you for it.

If you want to swim at the beach, go past the point. Swim off the Carlton pier and you risk the whole of advertising retouching you with their eyes.

Don’t feel despondent and unloved if you can’t go and see the bands. Do what the locals do – sit on a bench outside and listen. Buy a bottle of rosé from the nearby off licence – at a fifth of the price of any of the main hotels – get two plastic cups and sup with your mate.

Jennifer Berry

Chief executive, Digitas

Love it or hate it, Cannes Lions week is a privilege of our industry. It can however be *a little* overwhelming, so my biggest piece of advice for our freshers this year is have a focus for your week. Whether it’s learning from your peers, expand your network, meet new disruptors, share your award-winning work with the industry or give clients an amazing experience… being clear will help you navigate your way through to an awesome Cannes. Don't miss the fringe events, those off-schedule meetups are pure gold!

Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint: stay hydrated, rock comfy shoes and get your beauty sleep. Most importantly, soak it all up!

Lucy Taylor

Chief growth officer, MullenLowe

A cornucopia of creativity and connections. And a wealth of inspiration, innovation and opportunity everywhere you turn.

A global stage throwing a spotlight on the world’s brightest and best. All in vibrant garb and expensive sunglasses.

If you’ve never been before and you are on course to land on la Croisette next week, then be excited. Yes, it really is that good.

For sure, it’s tough to not get swept up by the buzz and the overwhelming amount of opportunity that presents itself, but time is tight and your friend for the week is focus (and flat shoes).

You won’t be able to see everything, but you will be able to fill your cup till it’s truly overflowing. Make friends with a veteran, schedule the hell out of your days, schedule time for unscheduled openings, take notes, take selfies and embrace the whirlwind.

Dom Goldman

Founder and chief creative officer, You're the Goods

If you’ve wondered why your overpriced hotel room has a bathroom with decor from 1952 and the tiniest bath in the world, don’t be alarmed, this is actually fancy. It’s a bidet, and you can enjoy its benefits while browsing the morning awards shortlist with your heart beating and your undercarriage glistening.

Don’t feel obliged to regurgitate Tricolore GCSE at the burger bar at 6am. It doesn’t end well. It’s proper J'habite a Londres avec jog on mon ami.

If you win a car at the Corbis Raffle, don’t accept it. Chaos will follow and it may also come with a set of child seats and a legal battle. Will leave that one there.

Don’t travel from the Gutter Bar to the airport. EasyJet sick bags are difficult to assemble on take off and angry industry types on your flight will not be sympathetic, nor will they forget.

Marc Allenby

Co-founder and chief creative officer, Hijinks

Comfy and sturdy footwear is essential as you'll be walking many kilometres in raging sunshine, navigating the Croisette from one event to the next, party to party – your feet will thank you, trust me. And, if you can get your hands on one: one of our Amenitees t-shirts. This wearable festival aid is designed to help you in your hour of need by giving you life-saving French phrases – from “Can I please buy paracetamol” to “You can give the bill to them” and “Yes my name is on the list” – printed upside down on the front of the tee to be easily read and instantly accessible. The back features an artwork inspired by the phrase on the front created in the style of an 18th-century French still life.

Katie Lee

Chief operating officer, Wavemaker

Let me talk about shoes. This is not some horrific female stereotype but some eminently practical advice for any Cannes first-timers. You may picture yourself in gorgeous strappy shoes, sitting on one of the beaches looking glamorous. That might happen on day one but I promise you, having walked the length of the Croisette approximately 20 times a day, done a lot of standing up and achieved the sexiest of cankles from the heat, your blisters will be marathon-grade. My advice is to take shoes that all have different rub points to allow for a "blister jigsaw" and bring some sturdy options (or just wear bedroom slippers under a long dress). I always have sore feet in Cannes.

Bill Scott

Chief executive officer, Droga5 London and UKIA marketing practice lead MD, Accenture Song

Succeed slowly by not failing too quickly – so pace yourself and time your first run on the Gutter Bar to be not too early in the week (oh, and be sure to stay close to the work… that’s why we’re there after all).

Dara Nasr

Vice-president global sales, WeTransfer

Chance or ad hoc meetings with people at Cannes tend to be more rewarding and productive than 10 back-to-back meetings sponsored by Powerpoint. Our day-to-day lives are driven by tight diary schedules, often with formulaic agendas. Stepping out of this pattern is great for the soul and the mind. It also drives creativity.

Despite popular belief, not every party will be the best party ever. Pick and choose the ones you go to. By the way, the best one is the Campaign shindig. Obviously.


Campaign US

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