Some Practical Uses for Cannes

Every Agency Can Learn Something From the Big Show

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Catarino Lopez Catarino 'Cat' Lopez
Another year, another Cannes Festival. This month, creatives and industry folks from around the world invaded Cannes for a week of debauchery and inspiration. Our agency has been sending creatives to Cannes for the last five years. It's a great employee incentive and a great way to help people stay motivated. At least, that's the spiel I give our CFO every year when battling over the Cannes budget.

It's amazing to me how everybody (read non-creatives) thinks we go to Cannes for a big party. I'm not gonna lie: Cannes isn't a dry county, and there's plenty of parties and alcohol, but 8 euros a beer and a 1.6 exchange rate helps keep things under control.

But all things being equal, sending your people to Cannes is a good thing. We were lucky enough this year to have one of our younger teams represent the U.S. Hispanic market in the Young Creative Competition. The team got a free ride with all expenses paid. Another team won a cash prize at this year's Radio Mercury Awards and used the funds to attend the festival as well. They've returned refreshed and inspired, eager to do great work. And to me that's what Cannes is all about.

While most do not have the opportunity to attend the festival, there are many ways to benefit from what it has to offer. The easiest and cheapest way is to log on to and check out all the winners. If nothing more, browse through the winning work in your clients' category. It's great to see how other people approach the same problem from a different point of view. Share it with your clients and co-workers and ask them what they think. Get a good a conversation started in regard to your brand and see if there are any opportunities. Communicate!

It seems to me this is something most agencies don't do enough of. While we work in the communication field, we fail to communicate with each other. Cannes is a great tool to get that conversation started. I've sent links to clients in the past sharing winning work in their category and have had some great conversations. Some of them have even gotten pretty heated. But it was just a conversation. In the end we both had a better understanding of each other's point of view, without a deadline or approval process in the way to sour our relationship.

Another good exercise is to comb through the winning work in the Cannes promo, direct and media categories. Not only can you see some great work, but it's a good way to hone your case-study writing skills. Seeing how different agencies showcase their work in these categories is like being a fly on the wall in a new business pitch. Share it with your new business, promo and media folks and get another conversation started. Eye-opening stuff. The key thing I take away every time is brevity. The best work is summed up efficiently with no fluff. One of my personal favorites is the Unilever Torture Test in the direct category. They sent consumers a box wrapped with a white T-shirt knowing that it would get soiled in the mail. Inside the box was a sample of the product to get the T-shirt good as new. Brilliant!

Notice the efficiency of the case study. While we tend to not communicate with each other, we also tend to over-communicate when it comes to our own work. Let the work speak for itself and keep it simple.

So you see, Cannes is more than just a big party on the French Riviera. It's worth the time and money to send your folks to see some of the best work in the world. It's a great resource to refresh, reward, inspire and share. Spend a couple of hours going through the winners and see if you don't feel inspired to do better work. If you're not, it may be time to look for another gig.
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