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What really goes on in Cannes during the Lions

Despite the not-so traditionnal approach of the industry, celebrating creativity & socializing the good old way is really what #CannesLions is all about.

A couple of days ago, I attended the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for the first time. This 8 day event has been celebrating innovation & creativity for over 60 years in a networking context like no other.

Views from a young agency patrtner living its 1st #CannesLions to the fullest.

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Cannes Lions Boat 2016
Cannes Lions 2016 Croisette

A global encounter of like-minded people.

Above all, the #CannesLions festival is a great opportunity to meet eye-to-eye with different people, breaking the naturally formed silos of the industry.

Horizontally, barriers between complementary businesses are broken down.
Production studios, creative agencies, professionnal associations & medias all end up at the same table, chatting over drinks or dinner about issues that in the end, are relevant to all. Understanding the industry on a broader scope is critical to defining each's role and developing new partnerships & collaboration opportunities.

Vertically, hierarchies are leveled out.
Presidents, creatives, producers & directors end up at the same parties, sipping champagne & rosé together, wearing nothing but buttoned-down shirts, shorts & flip-flops. Whether sharing thoughts on the winning initatives or just straight-up getting to know each other, everyone is down-to-earth & genuinely interested in meeting new people.

Globally, time zones converge.
Paris, Montréal, Amsterdam, Chicago, Rio… The creative world ends up at the same place at the same time, resulting in a fantastic opportunity to learn from each other's approaches & to develop potential cross-border partnerships.

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Cannes Lions Québec 2016
Cannes Lions La Chose 2016
Cannes Lions 2016 soirée Canada

The Canada Party, hosted by The Globe & Mail.

A showcase to the world's most creative ideas.

From shortlists to Grand-Prix Winners, all of the world's most creative work is showcased all at once.

From content initiatives that really get the message across, creative ideas that shine light on the unseen and marketing platforms that drive sustainable sales to social initiatives that bring communities together, our industry produces fantastic work!

« The brightest ideas are usually based off one clear insight, utilize timing as a PR leverage & dare to push the boundaries of traditionnal industry conceptions.

An experiences festival-goer would note :

« The most awarded projects over the past 15 years are those with the most people listed in the credits.

Who said collaboration was nothing but a buzzword?

Cannes Lions 2016

Trophees are ready to be handed out during the Entertainment evening.

Cannes Lions

This year's must see award winning initiatives:

Creative leaders generously share their thoughts.

The #CannesLions festival is not your typical keynote speaking event, where speakers line-up with a pre-made speach to collect a check. This time, you really sense the speakers come in prepared & looking to deliver as much value as possible in the short 40mins they're given. Here are some key quotes from the conferences:

On social enterprises:
« Above all millennials demand authenticity. They want to be part of something that they believe in. What they choose to wear is truly a statement, about their ideals and what they care about. »
- Blake Mycoskie, Founder et Chief Shoe Giver at Toms.

On sponsored content:
« The brand wins when the editors are allowed to do what they do best. When we break our process, we break the quality of our content. »
– Mike McAvoy President & CEO, The Onion Inc.

On the creative process:
« All our accounts are directly led by a core team composed of 1 copywriter, 1 art director & 1 account manager. They are directly accountable for everything that is presented to the client. The best creatives are the ones that truly care for the client’s business. »
- Anna Qvennerstedt, Creative, Partner & Chariman of the board at Forsman & Bodenfors

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Blake Mycoskie Toms Cannes Lions
Anna Qvennerstedt Cannes Lions

It's also a lot of work & a couple of - read many - bottles of champagne.

Whether it's the Masterclass or the Young Lions competitions, many creatives land in Cannes with two things in mind: working & learning. (Ok, they also can't wait for the competition to be over to join in on the drinking.) You'll also be surprised to run into creatives or directors spending hours on the phone, going over a campaign or a pitch that happens simultaneously back home. And don't be surprised to see a crowd of studying creatives at the Palais all day, looking to learn from short-listed & prized initiatives.

Who said Cannes was a weeklong vacation on the Côte d'Azur?

Of course, there are the endless dinners, the all-inclusive cocktails on the beach & the dreamlike villa parties that end only when the sun is up. But as we brainstormed over a couple of drinks:

This is a perfect setting to create backstories & build real relationships.

To some who might wonder how « partying 'til 6 in the morning » is a necessary element to networking, just remember that these « Cannes encounters » are as real as it gets, far from the business-driven conversations you might have out of this setting...

Cannes Lions Groupe Québec 2016

The Québec delegation during the Canada party.


So, would I go back? Absolutely. From inspiration, to development to relationship-building, the #CannesLions experience delivers across the board, and more. You just need to know how to dose your champagne & get up before noon.

Would I go back every year? Probably not. To keep the magic alive and to properly benchmark your progression to those who also, work tirelessly in between appearances.

Cannes Lions 2016

The end.

Cannes Lions


As the Head of strategy, Jean-Philippe has been interested in the systemic changes required for a transition to a more conscious capitalism system for over 10 years.