Networking at Cannes

Networking at Cannes
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Cannes Reports, bleh. I think the done, expected thing would be to write about my expectations prior to this year’s festival, followed by a tidy follow-up piece about if they were met. You probably wouldn’t read past the first paragraph.

Truth is, Cannes is pretty much what you expect or have in your head: lunches, drinks, stereotypical ad guys, red-faced antipodeans (sunburnt or otherwise), and maybe more rosé than I thought.

So let’s look for something else to talk about, like the contrast between Australia and the rest of the world.

The Aussie contingent is well represented in volume and we’ve performed with strength this time around. However, while we’re here en masse, it seems the real power sits with the big boys – the US and the networks.

The Americans roll into town and buy up the top floors of hotels and take up positions on the horizon in their huge yachts. And why not? Their markets are epic in size and they seemingly have money to burn.

The power of networks is also more prevalent in Cannes than in Australia. In Cannes, they are like clans on a battlefield and dominate the social scene – the Ogilvy party, the DDB lunch.

What is clear amongst these big power blocks is how hard it is to establish a point of differentiation.

It seems every seminar or session at Cannes is sponsored by a big agency and headed by an American CEO. They’re selling their brand of uniqueness and boy, do they sell. A book about storytelling, a pitch on data – probably the most creative thing is how you link that to a punk clothing designer or a race car.

Once you scratch below the surface, all the pitches or the unique selling points seem to be the same. As an industry, it seems to have become quite homogeneous. To me, it seems increasingly difficult to differentiate between the big brand agencies that are influenced by the US market.

However, the most powerful player in Cannes is still great ideas. It overshadows the parties, dominates the conversations on the terrace and permeates the blogs. The very best ideas transcend social, cultural and political differences, and defy any possible network nepotism.

So in 2012, while 51% of all Lions went to the network agencies, 83% of the Grand Prix Lions went to independent agencies. Maybe that means those that can cut from the homogenous, separate from the party line, and provoke with purpose deliver more creative work.   

Or not. I don’t know. It’s a lot to consider when you’re sunburnt and so far from Redfern. I’m going back to my ros√©.

Matt Michael is strategic business director at The Monkeys. 

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