Does good new business start at Cannes?

There has been plenty of conversations about the value of Cannes Lions this year and whether you can justify the cost of a €32 Chicken Sandwich on the Croisette – and the thousands more that a trip can often cost an agency.

Whilst the focus of the week is to recognise creativity and sharing knowledge, there is also a big focus on networking. With BrainDating, Accenture’s bump and Connect wrist bands, plenty of action is focused towards making connections. We’re always interested in meeting new people, so Upfront went along this year and got talking to people to find out how they got on.

Jon Reid, Business Director at Set Live, the agency behind the unmissable YouTube beach experience at Cannes, knows first-hand the impact the event can have: “Each year we help Google to stand out at Cannes and we know how important this is to their business. However, if you are going to meet potential new clients it can be difficult if you don’t have an established presence there”.

Whilst Cannes brings together so many senior Marketers from across the world, conveniently into one place, you are competing heavily for their attention. “We had a range of exciting meetings lined up with high profile CMO’s who were all keen to meet us at Cannes, but it is always hard to actually tie down timings as there is so much going on and so many competing priorities. However, it’s been a great way to start a conversation”, Jon explains, “[…] and for many they will have experienced our work first hand if they made it down to the beach”.

Nick Stephens at Brand Experience Agency, Ignis, went for a more spontaneous approach. Armed with a networking pass, Nick managed to meet a great range of potential prospects by striking up new conversations around the hotels and beach bars of the Croisette: “I just identified who I wanted to speak to and went and found them. I was particularly keen to speak to the guys at the Weather Channel who have just been bought by IBM Watson. They ended up inviting me on their yacht, which was a great way to get to know them!”.

Miranda Glover, Business Director at digital agency E3, who received a nomination for their AI virtual assistant work for Arthritis Research, and won a commendation for a strategic report in the AdMap Prize, found the talks invaluable at Cannes: “The Cannes experience overall was extremely informative and inspiring. I went to lots of talks which gave me a great perspective on the future of our industry.” Miranda described Business Development happening by osmosis and feels confident that relationships will develop over time: “I met some great influencers and creators at the events and sure we will meet again, but Cannes doesn’t really suit a quick-fire agency pitch, instead we all want to assimilate knowledge and make new connections whilst we are there and then come back to it.”

One sure-fire way of getting people’s interest is to host a high-profile welcome party. Leading social analytics platform Crimson Hexagon did this to great effect with Twitter, at their Cabana right next to the palace. For the remainder of this week, the cabana served as a base for their meetings, while their executives worked the ground at partner events like WPP Stream and the Facebook VIP party. Marian Cramers, Director for Global Network Agency Growth at Crimson Hexagon, was particularly pleased with this third edition of Crimson @ Cannes. “I feel we have really established our brand and presence here over the years, people acknowledge our place in the ecosystem and we had many more C-suite and senior prospects and clients passing by. The relaxed space of the cabana and garden area also means they stay for quite a while, and we can have very open conversations about procurement procedures or changes within their org. Conversations we’re very unlikely to have anywhere else than here in Cannes!”

Overall, it may be difficult to justify the cost of Cannes as simply a New Business exercise. However, if approached responsibly and combined with meeting clients and gaining insight, then it still has an awful lot to offer and a great opportunity to meet a wide range of people in a relaxed environment.

We felt there is a lot more that the organisers Ascential can do to foster networking and introductions at Cannes to help make sure people get the most out of the week. For instance, no-one I spoke to got much out of the BrainDating app. Users found that it required far too much time and effort to organise anything and felt it would be better to make it easier to match people on relevant topics of discussion.

It certainly helps if you are doing something at Cannes or at least have a focal point to orientate meetings around. The YouTube beach was great for this and so was Crimson Hexagon’s Cabana. Hosting your own party is a great way to get people together and crucially, collect their contact info. And just being at Cannes you are likely to connect with like minded people, especially if you proactively introduce yourself to as many people as you can.

Apparently great stories start and continue at Cannes Lions. From all those that we spoke to during the week, lots of good conversations start there too. The question is now whether those good conversations will continue beyond Cannes? If they do and turn into new business, then it will certainly help to justify a return next year!

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