Blog: The networking effect at Cannes

Sarah Baldock, chief executive and founder of Be-good Events gives her take on this year's Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity: Samsung virtual reality
Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity: Samsung virtual reality

This year’s Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity was bigger and bolder than ever. The promenade and cabanas across from the Palais offered restricted access only, highlighting our new reality that large-scale international events are under increasing pressure to be vigilant. 

This did not detract from the wealth of positive interaction and brand experience along the Croisette, which included agency lounges in hotel bars and beach spaces. Snapchat went large, literally, with a stunning and visually arresting mega-screen across the face of the Palais and Google broke ground with new concept beach environment.

Great sponsored parties were held on boats and on beaches including the MailOnline and The Vice party on the roof the Casino Les Marches – where we danced with big name clients and bright young things. Yes, some splashed out on big name acts, like Gary Barlow, Dave Grohl, Mark Ronson, Craig David – whilst others chose to create a stir by showcasing technology; Google 360 subsea selfie, Samsung Galaxy & Gear VR outside the Palais and our very own Emblematic VR at the WPP Stream Island.

However, there is an emerging trend at Cannes to create spaces for quality networking and collaboration - these are becoming the more highly prized invitations, as people strive to optimise the narrowing windows for valuable conversation between engagements. Sadly some people are still behind the curve, as party invitations stipulating ‘attractive females and models only’ were slapped down and rightly disgraced by Cindy Gallop and Cannes Lions.

The Cannes Lions week is getting more and more packed with ‘must-see’ events, yet with more and more clients attending and the pressure to conduct business throughout the week, there is a very real case for substantive and meaningful activations. WPP’s Stream embodies this perfectly.

Speakers across many events, as well as the main stage, included Keith Weed discussing how we unlock brand interaction in an age where experience trumps ownership. Jack Dorsey and Daniel Ek offered the tech sector buzz and Sir Martin Sorrell challenged Piers Morgan on a range of topics from Trump to Brexit, and expounded his continued approach to supporting creativity with big data and getting people to work together and not apart.

So, the air was heavy with meaning, when after a week of international celebration and collaboration, the news of Brexit broke on Friday. There was palpable shock and disbelief as attendees across Cannes and in the airport murmured individual stories of how their business would already be affected.

The ramifications for the global live event industry will be far-reaching and not without struggle. And yet time and again event professionals deliver in the most challenging circumstances. If there is one industry that will quickly adapt and navigate the turbulent waters ahead, it will be ours.

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