Clients Cannes and Will Keep Coming

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By MaryLee Sachs
US Chairman

From Accenture and Accor to Whirlpool and Yahoo!, marketers took Cannes by storm this year in what festival organizers saw as the biggest increase in client attendance in Cannes’ 57-year history.  Clients made up nearly 15 percent of the total attendance of 8,000.  In fact, about 400 senior marketing clients, especially in the packaged goods and technology sectors, were present, and the size of their delegations mushroomed too.  Most client organizations sent between one and five executives, but Kraft was up to 20 people from just eight last year, and Procter & Gamble’s delegation was 30-strong.

Newbies ranging from MasterCard to Russia’s largest bank, Sper Bank, joined with established regulars like Kimberly Clark and Unilever, who rubbed shoulders with entrepreneurial brands such as Toms Shoes and Facebook – if one can still think of Facebook as entrepreneurial.

Why are clients flocking to Cannes?  Could it be that creativity is becoming even more important?  Or is it because creativity is taking a new shape, blurring across traditional disciplines?  Many entries won in multiple categories, and there was much buzz about renaming the Cannes International Advertising Festival to something more fitting and embracing of other disciplines.

Regardless of its name, clients were absorbed by this year’s Festival – attending and speaking at seminars and master classes at the Palais, sponsoring cafés and bars, meeting and doing business, and soaking up all that Cannes has to offer by way of creative inspiration.  Marc Pritchard, CMO of P&G, the world’s largest marketer, said in his interview with H&K’s Cannes Eye, P&G come because Cannes is the “epicenter for creativity”; they want to be inspired and educated, and take back what they learn to the larger P&G organization.

Networking was high on the agenda, too.  Bob McDonald, CEO of P&G, even stated in his panel discussion with Maurice Levy of Publicis that he was at Cannes because they “want to find the right partners.”  And Joe Tripodi, CMO of Coca-Cola, reported on a new level of collaboration between his 11 agencies, “redefining the notion of collaboration.”

With this sort of increased engagement from clients, it’s easy to see that Cannes is essential for anyone in our industry who wants to be taken seriously.  The opportunity to have face time with leading marketers and hear them speak about campaigns they’re proud of and why, their views on the blurring of marketing disciplines, and how social media is impacting their business are all good reasons to attend.  Cannes also is about enhancing an agency’s creative reputation, and sharing best practice on the largest possible global stage.  Not being at Cannes somehow now signifies a lack of engagement in the overall marketing community, and worse yet, a lack of creativity.

Attending Cannes also provided an opportunity to see brands in action as they talked to each other.  For instance, Yahoo! also had a much larger presence this year with at least five branded sites or events which included a headlined seminar with Ben Stiller on centre stage in the Palais, a Brandcastle event on the beach, and three branded sites including the central watering hole for the after-party scene most commonly known as ”The Gutter Bar”.

Other active brands included IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Kimberly Clark, Diageo and Intel.  In fact, the focus seemed to be much more on brands and campaigns in the seminars this year versus stars for pure entertainment, making the content more relevant and educational for all Festival goers.

Next up, there is talk of the 2011 Festival introducing a Cannes Lions Effectiveness Award, suggesting yet another award that would sit alongside the already multi-disciplinary Integrated and Titanium Awards.  This presents another opportunity for the public relations category to excel, particularly when a campaign is affecting a binary outcome.

Last year was PR consultancies’ first year with the introduction of the PR category.  Our future is bright with so much interdisciplinary work blurring the lines, but we’ve got to be in the game to win it.

In addition to entering your best work, if it’s your first time at Cannes, here are five top tips for attending next year’s Festival:

  1. Do your homework – find out colleagues and business associates who plan to attend, and check out the Festival program in advance
  2. Schedule as much as you can before you arrive, but leave room for flexibility
  3. Attend the awards programs in the evenings – it’s the best way to see the most amazing campaigns
  4. Drop in on the Gutter Bar in the evening – everyone else does!

And bring comfortable walking shoes!

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