We interviewed Ed Davidson, Commercial Manager at Cannes Lions to find out what makes a great Cannes experience, what the big changes are for 2018 and all the juicy gossip from past years.

What makes a successful activation?

A successful activation is one that works for the customer’s needs. The success of every activation is decided on whether we have listened well, asked the right questions, understood what the customer is looking to achieve and then focusing on creating the best platform we can to deliver that. Clarity of the briefing process directly correlates with success of the activation.

Why do you think people return to Cannes every year?

There are a multitude of reasons from business, to emotional attachment, to curiosity. I think the key message is that people across the world absolutely believe that creativity is fundamental in driving change, both for business and for the greater good.

What are the weirdest things you’ve seen/craziest thing you’ve had to do at Cannes?

The entire context of Cannes Lions is weird when compared to normal life! So to achieve weirdness during the Festival it has to be something particularly special. Despite that, the team and I were able to pull together a shortlist of around 50. Some highlights would be:

DJ’ing for Bill Clinton, applying ice to some prosthetic nipples for a stage performance, playing heads up with Neyo, sharing a Budweiser with the Burger King himself, being asked if anyone can locate a piano at 3am in the morning for a private rendition of Happy Birthday for a client and having to ask two people why they had set up a chicken wrap stand outside the Palais only to find it was part of a Young Lions competition submission.

What’s your fondest memory of last year’s Cannes?

The first morning of the Festival when everything is built and ready to go is always a great moment. We work all year to get that moment right.

We always have a team day at the end of the Festival and this year we had a BBQ at one of our apartments. It’s always a great time to reflect and relax and we have an extremely tight-knit team so it’s always great fun.

What other Festivals do you attend around the ad calendar?

With Cannes Lions being what it is we feel that we have to build a creative environment at the Festival through our inventory and the activations. We therefore try and draw inspiration and ideas from all sorts of events not just in the B2B space. With technology being at the heart of creative ideas and execution now, CES is an event I’m looking forward to going back to in January.

What were last years trends and themes?

One of the most exciting emerging trends is one that we’ve dubbed the ‘new work’. There’s an increasing amount of creative work that you could say is beyond advertising. It sits outside traditional channels and has a tangible and positive effect on culture. Work like State Street’s Fearless Girl, or Superhumans from Channel 4 are good examples of ‘new work’.

Talk us through the major changes for this year’s Festival?

The most visible in terms of the delegate experience will be the shift to five days, plus our partners from the Mayor’s office in Cannes are putting together a whole package of benefits and savings exclusive for Festival delegates. In terms of the Lion itself, there’s been a major overhaul of the awards structure to bring them up to date with the shape of the modern creative communications industry.

What are you excited most about the changes to the Festival this year?

Both from a business and personal perspective I am really excited about 2018 but if I had to pick one thing it would be the extension of Lions Innovation to five days. Creativity and innovation are intrinsically linked and are key drivers in generating positive change.

This change gives the businesses at the cutting edge of innovation and creativity a bigger platform to showcase what they can do. I am hoping it provides the springboard for augmented reality, artificial intelligence and virtual reality to really come to life at the Festival.

Predictions for 2018?

Even though the Festival is now Monday to Friday, I’ll still be completely shattered by the end of it.

Entering into the holiday period what should marketers (event planning) be focusing on or aware of?

Knowing about the changes to the Festival and how they might impact your planning! 

The time between January and June disappears faster than you think, so it’s never too early to start planning your Festival activities. And we’d always encourage people to come to us with questions – however silly or trivial they might seem.


In the middle of planning for Cannes? Maybe we can help!

Let us know if you’d like to chat about how we could help you at Cannes Lions 2018 by contacting miranda@oneriseeast.com