All you need to know about Cannes Lions
Updated: Jul 7
Unless you're in the Advertising and Marketing industry, many people are not aware of Cannes Lions and why top ad execs, brands and A-list celebs flock to the French Riviera after Cannes Films Festival.
Including myself, I first came across Cannes Lions when I was working with Ally Owen, the founder of Brixton Finishing School, in the summer of 2018. In conversations with media companies and advertising agencies, Cannes Lions was described as the 'Met Gala for the advertising industry' where agencies strive to win a Lion. I was fortunate to be able to attend the festival the following year in 2019 although I wasn't quite sure what I was signing myself up to.
From the prestigious awards to the boozey parties, I share below a 101 introduction to Cannes Lions and how you can potentially see yourself there next year.
What is Cannes Lions?
Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is a 5 day event that takes place in June by the French Riviera to celebrate achievements in the advertising, marketing, entertainment, design and technology industries with the prestigious Cannes Lions awards.
Inspired by the Cannes Film Festival which takes place a few weeks before, it is the world’s biggest festival and awards since 1954 that recognises the best in creative advertising and attracts A-list celebs and the world’s biggest brands, agencies, media companies and consultancies.
What happens at Cannes Lions?
(1) Attend industry discussion panels and network
Delegates have access to world leading panels, workshops and events across the week where industry leaders and executives have thought-provoking discussions about the evolution of the industry, successful campaigns and future innovations.
It is a huge opportunity to network with the most influential people in the industry and win new business while sipping on unlimited rosé outside of a boardroom (most likely on a yacht or beach, can’t complain). You may also have a casual interaction, drink or selfie with an A-List celebrity. This year’s attendee list included Meta, Google, Spotify and WPP hosting their own beach on the Palais Croisette.
(2) Cannes Lions award ceremony
The Cannes Lions Awards is the one of the most coveted awards as it is recognised as the ultimate achievement in creativity. With 9 tracks and 28 awards, jury members representing global industry’s leading talent determine the winners.
(3) Learn from world-class training
Young people are invited to enrol into the Cannes Lions School to fast track their careers and become the next generation of industry leaders. With a combination of world-class speakers, hands-on learning and coaching from industry leaders, rising young talent have the opportunity to grow their personal network and realise their creative potential.
There are 5 academies as part of the LIONs academies which young people can attend: Creative Academy, Brand Marketers Academy, Media Academy, Roger Hatchuel Academy (I attended in 2019 and share my experience below).
(4) Infamous parties
The festival has traditionally been known for its rosé-fuelled party scene as much as it’s hot topic panels. Throughout the week, a series of parties and cocktail dinners take place across the beach, villas and mega yachts by elite media, tech and advertising execs.
Live concert performances are also hosted by Spotify, Twitter and Inkwell who takeover the Cannes beach. This year, we saw the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Dua Lipa, Post Malone, The Black Keys, Nas, Anderson. Paak and Kaytranada.
How can you attend?
Passes range from approximately $4,000 to premium passes for around $9,800 for the week. Discounts are available for group passes, students and those under 31.
My first visit to Cannes Lions in 2019 was to represent the UK advertising industry among 34 nationalities at the Roger Hatchuel Academy. I was extremely lucky and privileged to be nominated for RHA through a rigorous application by Ally and be sponsored to attend by the Advertising Association and Google.
Since 2019, I revisited Cannes Lions in 2022 with no delegate pass or sponsor, the power of an international, influential network and a lot of hustle. Cannes Lions can be an extremely overwhelming experience in an exclusive space with business decision-makers and the most influential people in the world. FOMO (fear of missing out) is real. However, pulling together a realistic schedule of talks you'd like to attend and people to connect with during the week is the first step to ensure you know what you want to get out of Cannes Lions. Most importantly, keep an open-mind for spontaneity as anything can happen in Cannes.