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Week 4: Cannes Lions Festival


I am so grateful to have been able to attend the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity which was included in my PR and Advertising study abroad program. This experience is one I will never forget, and one I am truly thankful for.

For those of you who don't know the Cannes Lions Festival happens every year in Cannes, France and is, in a nutshell, the Oscars for advertising agencies all over the world. Wikipedia describes it as "a global event for those working in creative communications, advertising, and related fields" and "the largest gathering of the advertising and creative communications industry."

The festival ran from Monday to Friday and was filled with speakers, networking, knowledge, parties, free swag, and lots of free food and drinks. I have a lot to pack into this week's blog (apologies for the length) and am very excited to share it all with you!

Happy reading :)


Allora, let's begin!

Monday, we woke up at 6 AM to catch the 10 hour bus ride from Rome to Cannes. I wish I had more to say about the bus ride, but I intentionally pulled an all-nighter writing blog #3 in order to sleep the full duration of the trip. And it worked! Minus the 3 rest stops I was fully passed out and rested for our first day of the festival when we arrived around 6 PM in Cannes.

Day 1 we received our badges and began exploring. The venue ran along the coast starting in the theater building where major talks were held, and extending down the beach covered with brand owned tents and venues. I immediately spotted the Tik Tok tent and had to check it out. Unfortunately, it was closed for the day but I saw a familiar face walking out of the tent. "Stephanie!" I yelled (hoping that was actually her name because I didn't want to yell "Glamzilla" her Tik Tok handle). The beauty guru I constantly see on my screen was there in front of me in real life! She was so sweet and didn't hesitate to take a photo with Marin and me.

Since we arrived pretty late, we decided to grab some tapas for dinner. The streets were packed with mingling people wearing Cannes Lions badges. Everyone looked very distinguished, and well older, while we looked like teens grabbing a Shirley Temple. Day 1 was definitely intimidating, but I knew I was in my element. Networking is one of my favorite things to do, and this trip was the perfect place to do just that.

Tuesday morning we started off strong with "VaynerX: The NFT Revolution and What it Means for Brands" a discussion with Gary Vaynerchuk and Paris Hilton. In all honesty we got there extremely early for front row seats to see Paris. However, the talk ended up being very informative and got me excited to learn more about Web3, the metaverse, and NFTs. Major bonus, Paris kneeled down at the edge of the stage once the talk ended and we got to take pictures - "that's hot" as Paris would say.

We then attended "Disney Advertising and Hyundai: Question Everything" with an appearance from Elizabeth Olsen a.k.a. Wanda Maximoff from the Marvel Universe. Then, "Dove and Ogilvy: How did a Beauty Bar Become a Multi-Billion Dollar Superbrand?"

Afterwards, Tik Tok tent was finally open, so we snagged some swag and interacted with the digital displays. We then wondered down to Spotify Beach - heaven. Never have I ever felt so cool. We were greeted with free merchandise (a tote bag, luxurious water bottle, and portable fan) then handed the custom drink menu. Of course all cocktails and food were free, which meant we spent a hefty amount of time at Spotify Beach.

Like I mentioned before, I love networking. So, the night before I scoured the internet and found people I thought were interesting and decided to message them on Instagram. Larissa May, the founder and executive director of #HalftheStory, was one of those people. Luckily she responded to my message and invited me to see her talk "Digital Wellbeing: A Global Imperative" in the SRMG tent. I took Lily along with me to sit in her on talk. I won't go into all the details but I highly recommend checking out #HalftheStory and their mission to empower the next generation's relationship with technology. After the eye opening talk, Larissa recognized me from Instagram and chatted with us for a while. She was incredible. Not only was she kind and inspiring, but she was eager to keep our connection alive and stay in touch after the festival. One thing we weren't prepared for at Cannes Lions was the exclusivity - which was very naive of us. We quickly realized that you must RSVP, get on a list, or have a wrist band to attend after hours events. So, Tuesday night we attended the only event we could find. The Gremlin Party at the Warner Bros tent. Skeptical, given the name, we hesitantly entered the party but ended up having a blast. Themed drinks, finger foods, dancing, drag queen performances, and meeting new friends made the experience a 10/10. The night's not over yet! Dua Lipa was playing at Spotify Beach so we had to watch. Remember that exclusivity thing I mentioned? Well, it was IMPOSSIBLE to get into the venue because you needed to be VIP to the max (trust me we tried everything). Anyway, we were able to watch the concert from the sidewalk with all the other commoners and jammed out all night to Dua Lipa nonetheless.

Wednesday morning started off with another heavy hitter, "MNTN/Maximum Effort: Ryan Reynolds on Next Generation Storytelling." Not only is Ryan Reynolds handsome and charismatic, but he is a brilliant advertiser. As the CCO of MNTN/Maxium Effort he explained the importance of humor and short form content. I also found out he was the genius behind's "Satan matches with 2020" commercial. After exiting the theater it was a bit soggy outside. We decided to check out Pinterest Beach and took cover from the rain while drinking tea. The Pinterest tent was full of fun activities that all required a reservation, but Lily and I managed to get squeezed in for a hair appointment at 2:30 PM. To kill time we decided to catch "Creators x Commerce: Driving Discovery with Issa Rae and Influential" in the Meta tent. This intimate talk was one of my favorites from the week. Ryan Detert, the founder of Influential, a platform that connects brands with influencers through data analytics, was very motivational. He also gave me insight on an area of marketing I might want to pursue one day. That being said I chased him down after the talk and introduced myself. Ryan gave me a hug after chatting and connected me with his manager. He then gave me his number and said to reach out for internship information - not to mention an invite on the Influential yacht. Important note: at Cannes Lions brands and agencies partner up to rent yachts for the week. These massive boats stay docked in the port and act as company HQ's in Cannes and are extremely hard to get on without an invitation (and with, which I will explain soon). Ok one more side note, Keke Palmer showed up at the Meta tent talk. Which had everyone freaking out having two icons, Issa Rae and Keke Palmer, in one room. Crazy! Moving on, I ran back to the Pinterest tent and got my hair done by Naeemah Lafond, the Global Artistic Director of Amika. My jaw dropped when she showed me the mirror. After playing with my hair for less than 10 minutes she had transformed it into a masterpiece. While Lily was getting her hair done I got my Aura photo taken which was a very cool and unique experience. After that we tiredly trekked to the Martinez hotel where I shamelessly waited to take a selfie with Andy Cohen then left before his talk could begin. Oops. To sum up the night's unfortunate events, we did not get on the yacht as promised. We showed up at 10:30 PM attempting to be fashionably late and the yacht was deserted. Confused, we wondered around for about an hour then tried again. We flashed security our invitation email and even texted our new connection, and still, we were not let on the boat. Finally we got a text saying the party wasn't until "later" which meant midnight, no thanks. The night was saved by Post Malone who played at Spotify Beach. Once again we watched from the sidewalk and sang our hearts out.

Thursday was a day to remember for many reasons. First, Lily and I learned our lesson with the Pinterest tent and woke up at 7 AM to reserve a spot for the day's activities. Pinterest had hair stylists, nail artists, T-shirt screen printing, aura reading, and tattoo artists. What better way to remember this incredible experience than a free tattoo... Lily and I snatched 2 of the 4 spots for the day to receive a "flash" tattoo. Taking cover from the rain we processed our spontaneity and drank cappuccinos in the tent.

To kill time before the appointment we walked back to the theater to an area called the "connection lounge" to stay dry. I flipped through a Cannes Lions magazine, which was made new everyday with the previous days events and award winners (impressive). Flipping through the magazine I spotted an email for an event I badly wanted to attend at the HAVAS Cafe. With nothing to lose I sent an email asking if I could register to be on the list. While walking to my tattoo appointment I received an email telling me to register that day in person for the nights Glitter and Sparkle party. Bingo.

Alright back to the tattoo. Pinterest was offering "flash" tattoos which means a fast and simple tattoo. There was a selection of stencils to choose from, so of course the zodiac symbols caught my eye. On my right middle finger I got a delicate and small Pisces symbol. I love the way it looks on my elongated fingers and reminds me of Haley Bieber's finger tats. The pain was a good 6/10 because my pain tolerance is extremely low, but definitely manageable. After the 3-minute tattoo was complete, I nervously texted my parents. To my surprise my dad just said, "don't get tattoos on your face like Post Malone." Success, that I can promise!

A downpour ensued, we needed to find cover. Lily and I were supposed to attend "Lunch with Legends" in the Adweek tent. However, it was just lunch, no legends, due to the rain. But hey no complaints free finger foods and rosé is hard to beat.

We didn't want to miss our next string of speakers to attend, so we made a run for it and showed up to "Paramount: Long-term Creative Effectiveness - Building Fandoms with the Star Trek Franchise" very damp. After listening to Sir Patrick Stewart's mesmerizing voice, it was time to watch "Cannes Lions The Lionheart Seminar Malala Yousafzai: Activist Generation Partnering for Change with Gen Z." It was an honor to listen to Malala speak about her faith in Gen Z and her belief that we have the power to effect major change in the world. The talk was extremely inspiring and motivational. Next, a quick 360 with "If You're Not First, You're Last with Megan Thee Stallion." This talk with Frito-Lay was about Megan's Flamin' Hot collaboration and the power of authentic brand/celebrity partnerships. I must add it was a bit of a starstruck moment getting to see Megan Thee Stallion up close and personal. I was smiling from ear to ear the whole presentation.

Google Beach Pride Happy Hour - one of my major highlights and memories from the week. This event was pure fun and very inclusive, meaning it was the first event we felt welcome as young adults. Everyone was letting loose, dancing and sipping custom cocktails made by glittery entertaining bartenders. There was even a glitter station where you could get dazzled up by makeup artists, which of course I did. Moments later, covered in glitter, my friends and I were taking in the incredible vibes and having a blast.

Enjoy this montage I made on Tik Tok!

Ok I promise Thursday is almost done, this is where it gets good. Remember that HAVAS Cafe party I mentioned. Well, earlier Thursday I went to the front desk area and showed them my email. The kind man didn't question the email and electronically signed me and Lily up on iPads. I would like to shout out my high school French education for teaching me the word for "party" because at the very bottom of registration it asked if we would be attending. I immediately pressed "oui" and instructed Lily to do the same. That night after Google Beach Lily and I waltzed into the HAVAS Cafe, full of adults. It was a true fake-it-til-you-make-it scenario so we did just that. We ended up spending the night chatting with the Managing Director of Goldman Saks and the CEO of VibePay (not to mention a Forbes 30 Under 30 lister). I want to preface this by saying that these men were extremely kind and connected with us on LinkedIn, as well as introduced us to their friends such as the Global Digital Lead for Apple in LA. They told stories about the celebrities they've met, the crazy lives they've lived, gave some incredible business advice for the future, and encouraged us to stay in touch for future career options.

Friday, I got to meet one of my favorite influencers Bretman Rock. We went early to get a good spot at "VIRTUE Worldwide and Logitech: Unleashing the New Logic of Creativity" and ended up catching Bretman taking pictures before the talk. I eagerly went up to him and said that my sisters and I have been big fans of his for years, and that I was excited to hear him speak! The Logitech talk spoke again on authenticity, a common theme during the week, and the future of technology collaborations. After, Bretman spent time with all his fans taking pictures and chatting. He was everything I hoped and more, starting off the day on a fabulous note.

We stuck around for "NFL: Bold and Undeterred - The NFL is Transforming its Brand" with Russell Wilson, Cam Jordan, Kelvin Beachum, Tim Ellis, and NFL Host Kimmi Chex. Although I'm not a huge football fan the talk was intriguing, and interesting to learn that the NFL is working on going international. I also stuck around to snag autographs from all the players for my boyfriend, which I secured after the discussion.

Since it was the last day, all tents and stages were being dismantled. So we decided to pack up a bit and get ready for the closing ceremony.

The closing award ceremony was very special and definitely made me feel like I was at the Oscar's. We got to watch the award winning Advertisements and listen to winner speeches.

After the ceremony, there was a final party at the beach hosted by Cannes Lions open to all badge holders. The free food and drinks were flowing. I stuffed my plate with mini burgers and lobster ravioli, and couldn't help but indulge responsibly in the free champagne. Before the DJ got the party started, fireworks lit up the sky as two violin players broke into song. This memorable moment was proceeded with hours of dancing and loads of fun. Cannes really knows how to throw a good party, that's for sure.

Saturday we woke up at 6 AM in order to pack, eat breakfast at the hotel, and make it on the 10 hour bus back to Rome. 30-some college kids eating breakfast after the pervious nights party was a hilarious sight to see.

Once again I slept through the entirety of the ride, minus rest stops, and made it back to Rome where I am writing to you.


If you're still reading, thank you for sticking around! I will spare you the details of my Sunday trip to Florence, and save it for blog 5 next week.

Until next time, Buonasera :)

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