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Welcome to the home of creativity.
The south of France isn’t just home to some of the most renowned sandy beaches in all of Europe. It’s also home to Pinterest Beach, Amazon Port, and mega-yachts branded by companies such as VaynerMedia and Paramount.
These tech giants (and their employees) descend on the French city of Cannes for the Cannes Lions Festival each year; the festival is back in person this year for the first time since 2019.
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What is the Cannes Lions Festival?
Attendees from the business, advertising and marketing industries spend five days exploring creativity with individuals from around the world. According to the festival’s official website, it “has been championing creative excellence since 1954 with the goal of providing a global destination and the definitive benchmark for creativity that drives progress.”
The festival’s environment is fun and engaging: Attendees listen to panels on beach chairs, in poolside loungers, at collaborative outdoor coffee shops and in tech-savvy lecture halls. After full days of workshops and seminars led by experts in their respective industries, the entertainment options are endless. Artists including Dua Lipa, Kendrick Lamar, and Post Malone put on beachfront performances at the Spotify-sponsored stage.
Attendees also compete for 28 different awards across numerous disciplines of branded communication: design, health and wellness, outdoor, publishing and pharma are among the categories. The highest honor goes to those who leave with the Cannes Lions Grand Prix award, which is the most prestigious award for each given category.
“We stand for the idea that creativity drives business, and the beacon for that is the Lions that we award,” Cannes Lions chairman Philip Thomas told Forbes in an interview.
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When and where is the festival, and can I go?
The Cannes Festival debuted in 1954 in Venice, Italy. The Lion of Piazza San Marcos in Venice was the inspiration for the Lion trophy. The next festival took place in Monte Carlo, and the third one in Cannes, France. In 1984, the festival found its permanent home in Cannes. It is an annual, five-day festival that takes place at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. This year, the festival spans June 20-24. Although the festival took place virtually in 2020 and 2021, it is taking place in person this year.
There’s a Cannes Lions Festival pass for everyone, regardless of if you’re attending as an individual, as part of a creative team or to master a skill. But critics say the $3,700 ticket price makes the festival a refuge for the elite to sip rosé on yachts instead of an accessible business environment to get creative juices flowing.
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What events take place at the festival?
The festival centers around councils for progress, which are meant to drive purpose through creativity – councils this year include sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion, talent, business transformation and creative effectiveness. Events are centered around people coming together to discuss challenges in each field and find paths forward.
This year, discussions include “The Health and Wellness Lions Debrief,” “Words Mean Things — Deconstructing the Language of Storytelling With Roxane Gay,” “Brand Activism — Your Power as Marketers to Make Big Change” and more.
Networking takes up a major portion of an event like the Cannes Lions Festival, but it does networking a bit differently. Instead of hosting cocktails and small talk in an event hall, attendees mingle in brand-sponsored cabanas, yacht clubs, and connection lounges, which have open bars, DJs, dancing, and more.
Individual companies also put on their own events. For example, Amazon’s brand activation is Amazon Port, a giant tented space where attendees can join a morning workout or attend various interactive panels, workshops, happy hours, and concerts.
In an interview with Digiday, Cannes Lions CEO Simon Cook wants people to “have meaningful conversations, to make connections and to reunite with people they haven’t seen since 2019.” And who knows, those meaningful conversations might just include input from high-profile attendees such as Ryan Reynolds, Lupita Nyong’o, Lizzie Olsen, Jemele Hill, and many more.
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