The Cannes Lions Festival has, historically, been a place where senior-level agency employees congregate to drink, network and vie for awards. Attending the event is harder for early-career advertisers. Budgetary concerns, and the sheer lack of relevant on-site opportunities for young people, create a barrier.
Some agencies and third-party industry organizations are pushing back on that barrier by sponsoring opportunities for young people to attend the festival. Selecting which early-career employees to send to the festival introduces other challenges, but it is one way industry bodies can do their part to support employee career trajectories and foster inclusion at the event.
Adweek spoke with first-time Cannes attendees and the organizations that sponsored their travel to learn more about their programs.
“From the outside looking in, I suppose you don’t see a lot of the other things that go on [at Cannes], other than the general awards that are given out,” said Conor Smith, a senior A/V designer at 26 agency and MSQ Young Lion who went to the festival this year for the first time.
Internal competitions at agencies
Agencies that send young creatives to the festival create internal competitions for employees. Media.Monks hosts its NextUp.Monks competition that its early-career creatives can compete in to win travel to Cannes, and more specifically, a seat at the Cannes Lions Academies program.
The Academies experience offers attendees classroom-style sessions, along with networking opportunities. The Creative Academy session admits just 30 creatives total.
“Having an internal competition across your global team to see not just who wants to go to Cannes, but who deserves to go to Cannes by winning a competition that tests their creativity, their response to a brief,” is a novel approach, Steve Latham, head of learning at Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, told Adweek. Media.Monks works closely with Latham to build out a bespoke agenda for the handful of creatives it sends to the festival.
This year’s winners, Yazad Dastur, junior copywriter at Media.Monks, and Anna Zhang, junior designer at Media.Monks, responded to a brief for Meta that asked they imagine a unique VR experience for the company. As many as 300 Media.Monks employees across 25 countries responded to the brief.
“It’s really great to go to Cannes, but I feel like going to Cannes to be a part of a global cohort with creatives from all over the world is going to be so great,” Zhang told Adweek before the event.