Cannes Lions

Navigating Cannes Lions as an AdTech Company

Navigating Cannes Lions as an AdTech Company

Cannes Lions. Yachts, rosè, hors d’oeuvres and networking – lots of networking. This year we sent some of our finest team members (well, the ones with the biggest mouths) along to the festival for the very first time.

Cannes Lions Festival has long been about the creative side of media and advertising, but with the adtech industry playing an increasingly dominant role in this space, the festival has well and truly been taken over by us adtech folk. With media companies, agencies, brands and technology companies from all over the world in attendance, it’s an opportunity like no other to meet current and prospective clients and partners, all in one place, in one week, and in a beautiful setting that ultimately puts everyone in a jolly good mood!

To keep things simple, here are our pros and cons from our experience at Cannes Lions.


  • Topical focused events. There is a good selection of interesting and engaging events happening outside of the main Palais Des Festivals (for which you don’t need a pass). These took on formats such as the classic panel with Q&As and open discussion lunches. From what I saw, these events cover interesting and relevant topics of the moment, and don’t tend to take longer than an hour, which is just as well in the Cannes heat! For example, TubeMogul hosted a panel session with agency executives on the rooftop of JW Marriot, discussing what programmatic models are best for brands.

  • The jetèe of yachts. I must admit, I’m a yacht convert. Leading up to Cannes I had the idea that yacht events are pretentious and cheesy and didn’t really like the idea of Coull hosting our own. But you know what, they are pretty damn cool, and once you’re out there, it becomes the norm. I found that a lot of technology companies took up residence on their own yacht for the week, and hosted parties every evening. Boat hopping was without a doubt how we did most of our networking out there. Why? Relaxed atmosphere, free drinks and food in abundance, great scenery and plenty of space.

  • Everyone is feeling positive. This is not a one or two day conference hall packed with suits trying to fit in as many business deals as possible. It’s a week (give or take) of relaxed, informal relationship building in a fantastic place with the sun shining. It’s hard not to have a smile on your face. There’s an unmistakable vibe of positivity, excitement and genuine interest to meet new people and explore new opportunities. Get your lighters out.

  • Business gets done. Believe it or not, a lot of deals are made in Cannes, and a lot of strong relationships are built. Before the sun sets and the drinks are flowing, most people are in back-to-back meetings, taking full advantage of the opportunity to meet with people they usually only get to speak to over the phone.

  • Relationship building.  Tying in with the above point, Cannes Lions has proved invaluable to us in terms of building and strengthening relationships. The down-time and relaxed atmosphere takes away the pressure and the formality. This, dare I say it, feels more like making friends rather than forced partnerships.

  • Lions Innovation. If you want to step away from all the above, and do the seminar and talks thing, then you absolutely can. It was the first year for Lions Innovation, a two day event where the topics of data, technology and creativity come together to bring a line-up of inspiring sessions for those in the industry. For a full round-up on what happened during these two days, visit The Guardian, who have compiled a great hour-by-hour overview, full of photos and videos. One of my personal favourites from this event was #EMOTICANNES – an incredible digital installation


  • It’s easy to steer off course. To be quite frank, we’re all in danger of mistaking this work trip as a bit of a holiday, so it’s important that you keep your head screwed on. My tip? Devise a schedule before you go, that’s not too tight, and stick to it. Saying that, this festival experience can be very serendipitous, and you never know what may come out of a spontaneous decision, so don’t be too afraid to get caught in the moment!

  • It’s very broad. The festival as a whole covers a broad range of companies and topics and so there are thousands of people in attendance that aren’t relevant to your company. And aside from the adtech boats and focused events, everyone tends to hang out in the same places, so you need to be careful not to dilute your time there too much.

  • Productivity. It’s most likely that you’re sending some of your C-level execs out there – these really busy people at the heart of the business are taking a week out of the daily grind to focus on Cannes. However, I see this activity as the same thing as any other long-term marketing tactics. It’s about the end-goal. Which brings us on nicely to…

  • Everyone at the office hates you. It’s inevitable, they’re sat in the office and we’re in the French Riviera. We’re sorry, but not really.


  • Do your planning – make sure you book on to as many relevant events as possible before you go. Even if you don’t end up going to all of them, you need to have a rough schedule and be ‘in-the-know’.

  • Book meetings with everyone you know that will be there. If the person in your company who usually deals directly with certain clients aren’t going, make sure that someone still meets them. Remember that you are representing your company, so knock it out of the park!

  • Make your schedule realistic and you’re more likely to stick to it. Too many late nights make early morning meetings difficult, so my tip would be to avoid committing to them in the first place.

  • Know what you want to get out of it. Are you predominately there for networking? Then maybe you don’t need a festival pass. Are you there to close deals? Go prepared and nurture those conversations in the lead up to the event.

  • Bring value home. Once you get passed the bitterness in the office, your colleagues will want to know what the company has got out of it. No matter how senior you are, you need to communicate this, so have that in mind.

Overall, #CannesLions was an invaluable experience for the Coull team and we’re all feeling very positive, despite the post-festival blues. We’ll see you there next year, hopefully with our own pretentious adtech yacht!

Posted by simonholliday in Coull news