This week I have the privilege of attending the Cannes Lions Festival courtesy of IAPI. With four days behind me and four days still to come, I can already say that this is, without doubt, one of the highlights of my professional career.

I’d heard rumours that this was the Disneyland of adland. And to be fair there are similarities. Queues for the biggest attractions (celebrity talks and those with the most eccentric titles), themed areas (Innovation or Health in case of Cannes Lions) and the most obvious similarity- the all-consuming heat (bring suncream!). But I’d also heard something else, from a client who was here last year. She said that going to the Cannes Lions was an ‘injection of love for our industry’. So I was arriving with the highest of expectations.

The first thing that stuck me was the sheer scale of the event. It’s massive. Spread across several different buildings (the Palais), taking over the beach and even closing down the main street. But the second thing that stuck me was the level of organisation. Everything here runs like clockwork. The talks end on the scheduled minute they are supposed to end, there are no technical hiccups. Why do we have to come to Cannes for this? Why can’t all meetings and presentations at home run this like?

The variety of talks that take place is also massive, but there are clear themes from the talks I’m attending. These include:

  • Gender Equality
  • Fake News and its impact on consumer decisions
  • Storytelling and Emotions
  • The Battle of Being Creative in a World of Data and Media Tools

This last theme has really left a lasting impression on me. We now have access to so many tools, so much research and data. We want these to tell us if an idea will work before the idea starts. Sometimes the problem with advertising professionals is that we feel we must always justify everything with this research, data or tools. And that can take away from the beauty of the idea. It’s an interesting discussion. On one hand, we can’t and don’t want to waste our clients’ money, but on the other hand, if a tool tells us a brilliant creative idea won’t work, why should we kill the idea completely?

If someone asked me for any advice before heading to Cannes, there are a couple, besides the obvious ones of bringing a battery pack, wearing comfortable shoes and light clothes.

Firstly, download the app- this is your bible as it has everything from the schedules to the venue map and even live tweets relating to each talk. Do your research come prepared with your schedule organised. Secondly, don’t get distracted by celebrity names at talks. Of course, go to these if you genuinely feel they are relevant (I went along to a Helen Mirren one) but don’t waste an hour (or more with queues!) of your day for a quick celebrity spot.

Finally, my biggest piece of advice- take time out each day and take a step back. Review the talks, mull them over in your head, rewrite your notes, have discussions with people on the events. If you don’t, anything you’ve heard, seen or read will be long forgotten by the time you get home. Truckloads of world class information are being thrown in your face, and you must put time and effort into retaining as much of it as possible.

Coming to the Cannes Lions Festival, I wanted to see this ‘injection of love’ that my client spoke about but Cannes has delivered something else. I was lucky enough to listen to Helen Mirren discuss her work with L’Oreal and the Prince’s Trust. She spoke about motivating people through self-belief to give them FFF- Fuel For the Future. And while she wasn’t speaking in relation to those of us in the advertising industry, I think the term itself is so relevant to us.

The Cannes Lion is, without doubt, the most motivating and stimulating industry event I’ve ever been to. We often see those with 4-6 years’ industry experience getting that ‘itch’- where they change agency, go travelling or completely change their career. We should be encouraging younger people in the industry to attend Cannes- it is not just for the likes of CEOs, MDs or CMOs.

My advice would be to take up any initiative that gives you this opportunity to get to Cannes. Through your agency, through industry bodies such as IAPI and the Young Lions competition. Four days gone, four more to go and still as excited as a kid in Disneyland!

To find out more about what’s going on at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, search for #CoreCannes on Twitter and Instagram or follow Core on either of these platforms.