Emma and Annalise

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"Get More Of Us Out There": Two Cannes Young Lions from MSQ Share Their Festival Diaries

MSQ sent two of its creatives out to Cannes Lions this year to experience the festival as Young Lions

By Annalise Valentino and Emma McKernan

Two bright young creatives from MSQ - Annalise Valentino, a creative at Brave Spark, and Emma McKernan, a creative at Smarts, were sent to Cannes Lions this year. They share their learnings from a week like no other…

1. Treat it like the festival it is.

First impressions of Cannes Lions? It’s massive. We weren’t exactly expecting ‘conference in a Holiday Inn off the A1’ vibe, but it still blew us away by how grand it was. Want to get into a particular talk? Turn up early. Want to skip between a talk at the Palais and a talk at the beach? Put on your walking shoes. Get into the same mindset you’re told when doing Glastonbury - plan your day out perfectly and jam-packed with amazing things do to, just don’t be derailed when that plan inevitably changes.

2. Swag! Swag everywhere!

It didn’t take long for the first ‘Cannes Lions virgin’ moment to come, watching Emma loiter awkwardly waiting to be charged for a free coffee. By the end of the day we were going from free tote bag to free beer, just waiting for an angry Monzo notification that never came.

3. Stock up your Airbnb early

Hangovers will mean you’re going to prioritise that extra time in bed over going out to grab breakfast. Amazing talks will mean you’re too busy rushing around to eat a proper lunch. An early trip to Monoprix is vital so you can grab-and-go.

4. Drink water.

Lots of it.

5. Creativity can make a difference

There was a lot of talk about change, about work with purpose. It’s easy to become cynical, especially knowing how quickly Gen Z can cut through the bullshit. But when you’re directly told by President Zelensky that we as creatives can make a difference, you believe him. It was the only talk we went to all week that got a standing ovation. And it’s the talk that we’re still talking about one week on.

6. Head to the farthest flung corners of the Palais…

It’s where we found the work that inspired us most. You can find the Grand Prix winners online and you’ll have probably already seen the UK entries. You’re in the Palais to check out amazing work from Puerto Rico and Peru, work you wouldn’t necessarily see in your day-to-day happenings but will stumble across in a gloriously air-conditioned basement. Indeed, it was in the most inauspicious of Cannes corridors that we found the Great Ads for Good exhibition, that we could have spent a week devouring.

7. …but don’t deny yourself a cheeky celebrity spot too.

Do we feel guilty that we decided to miss a couple of probably quite relevant talks to go and see Naomi Campbell on stage, despite having no idea what she’d be talking about? A little. Would we do it again? Absolutely.

8. Get out of your comfort zone

Advice for all parts of Cannes, but particularly when it comes to the talks. I (Emma) went to a talk on B2B, simply because it was an area I knew very little about. When you have the chance to hear the undisputed best in their field talk about an area they’re passionate about, it’s the easiest way to learn.

9. Drink more water

You think you’re drinking enough. You aren’t.

10. The world’s best creatives make excellent cheerleaders

Halfway through Monday, I (Annalise) did a pitch. I found the quietest corner of the Palais I could, dialled in and presented some work to a prospective new client back in the UK. Turns out being a Young Lion means there are some things you can’t use Cannes as an excuse to get out of something. But having random delegates clock what I was doing and come to support (plenty of thumbs up, some waves to camera) gave a very different kind of pitch adrenalin.

11. There are some fucking brilliant women in our industry…

The first three speakers we saw at the festival were Cindy Gallop, Yaroslava Gres and Tarana Burke (founder of the Me Too movement). The last was Colleen DeCourcy – the second (and thanks to people like her, certainly not the last) Lion of St Mark. From what we understand, it’s taken a hell of a lot of effort to get to the point where so many amazing women are on the Cannes stage. And even though we didn’t see the transition happen, we’re delighted that it has.

12. Be ready to collaborate

We saw Cindy Gallop talk at the ‘Meet-ups Space’. As part of the session she put people from all over the world into groups to create their own agencies. It provided some fascinating insight, and it was so exciting being part of a wider creative community. Cannes really is at its best when it brings creatives together.

13. The ‘spritz’ in Aperol Spritz doesn’t count as water.

Even if it does feel refreshing.

14. Take the train

A little harder for Emma (Belfast) than Annalise (London), but it all needs to be on our agenda next year. The train is smooth, comfortable and most importantly of all, far more sustainable. And, thanks to the combined efforts of Nice, Gatwick and easyJet, it’s about a hundred times quicker as well now too.

15. Inclusivity doesn’t always mean inclusivity

We went to a series of talks on how our industry needs to be more open, more accepting and more inclusive. And then we left the talks, went out at night and… couldn’t get into any of the parties, because they were all so exclusive and we weren’t important enough. Which brings us on to the (almost) final point…

16. Get more of us out here

One of our favourite sessions of the week was the Saatchi & Saatchi New Creators’ Showcase. And one of our favourite speakers was Caleb Femi. His purpose? To remind the decision makers in the room to spend more time with young creatives, to recognise and seek out young talent. Why, he asked, is it that the most senior people in the industry get to attend Cannes, when the junior creatives – the next wave of changemakers – stay at home? We couldn’t agree more. For us, the week has been genuinely lifechanging.

17. Book Monday off.

And don’t go straight from Cannes to Glastonbury (Annalise). Or the All-Ireland Quarter Finals (Emma). We’re broken. Happy. Inspired. But broken.

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