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Cannes Lions

Hotel Hell: Cannes Wants To Know If You Are Meeting at the Martinez

By Published on .

Cannes beaches, with the Carlton Hotel along the Croisette in the background.
Cannes beaches, with the Carlton Hotel along the Croisette in the background. Credit: iStock
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Going to Cannes? If you've paid up to be a delegate, you have unfettered access. But if you haven't, don't count on haunting the Carlton Terrace or any other hotel on the Croisette before 6 p.m. unless you first register for a "Hotel Access pass" granted by the festival's organizers.

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is emailing attending companies to stress the importance of its new Hotel Access pass for unregistered delegates, which it says is free "for this year," according to an email obtained by Ad Age, suggesting that networking could be costlier at Cannes in 2018.

The Festival is renowned for keeping out unpaid gate crashers on the ground and in the water (it charges for yacht passes in the harbor) but the Hotel Access Pass is a new twist that is causing some agencies consternation. "At every turn it's obvious that Cannes wants to make sure they squeeze every dollar out of the festival that they can to go to their bottom line," an industry exec told Ad Age.

Here's how the email puts it: "Recently, you may have heard or read about our plans to give official delegates priority access to some of the major hotels along the Croisette during the working day, between the hours of [8 a.m. and 6 p.m.]," adding that the festival wants attendees to understand "this important change."

Hotels specifically cited include the Majestic, the JW Marriott, the Carlton, the Grand and the Martinez, and though you can register for an access pass on site, the festival recommends pre-registering to "avoid having to wait in line," according to the email.

Once registered, Hotel Access Pass holders will "need to show their Hotel Access ID on their smartphone each time they enter the participating hotels," the email said. It will not cost this year, other than the $22 glass of Champagne or $24 Kir Royale being charged at the Carlton.

When asked for comment, a Cannes Lions spokeswoman said the Hotel Pass is aimed at reducing congestion. "Most large-scale events in Cannes include the major hotels as part of their 'official' footprint. As the Festival has grown, access to the hotel bars and restaurants is in very high demand, making it more difficult for official delegates to book tables and find places to have meetings during the day. Feedback from delegates new and old has been quite clear in recent years on this – so we've been working closely with the City and the hotels themselves on a way to manage these exclusive networking spaces better, whilst protecting the importance of after-hours socialising! "

Rather than simply being onerous, this new regulation could put a damper on clandestine meetings with talent and clients, especially if those trying to be stealthy have to sign up or wait on line every time they go in and out of the hotels. More than one multi-million account has shifted from one agency to another and one creative director wooed and won over drinks at the Majestic or the Martinez.

"What it comes down to is big agencies and networks invest millions and want to get the most out of it and what we do with our clients isn't really any of the festival's business," said the agency executive.

According to the email, each hotel will have people who can help non-delegates register for the Hotel Access Pass, but it's advised to do so in advance "to avoid having to wait in line," which may be tricky for impromptu meetups and cause a backup on the already crowded Croisette. "We don't expect any serious queue situations at the hotels," said the Cannes spokeswoman. "It takes just seconds to register, and can be done in advance."

As to whether there may be a charge for a Hotel Access Pass next year, she said "It is likely that we will extend the delegate-only experiences in 2018, but the specific details will be decided once we've reviewed operational and attendee feedback from this year's Festival."

In addition to the Hotel Access Pass email, the festival has sent out notes to attending companies asking for information about events they're planning in Cannes, including date and time, location, type of event, speakers, number of guests and purpose of the event. While the email itself has been sent out for a few years, this is the first time the note has been emailed from a generic "Cannes events" address rather than an actual person. Some attendees said the shift suggested to them that Cannes was becoming even more sensitive about outsiders holding events and parties on top of the festival.

Said the Cannes spokeswoman: "A vibrant and successful Fringe Festival has grown over recent years as new clients see the benefits of becoming official festival partners. This official status means their events and presence is promoted through official Festival channels to the Cannes Lions audience – enriching the overall Festival experience for both attendees and Fringe event partners."