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People come first: A lesson from Cannes Lions

The opening question in any meeting since returning from France has been ‘How was Cannes?’ to which I have emphatically replied – ‘brilliant’.  The setting, the sunshine and the rose in abundance were some good ingredients for an enjoyable week.

But when I now, over a week out, reflect on what made it truly special – as cheesy as it may sound – it’s the people; the connections made, the relationships built and the experiences shared.

In the lead-up to the event, I joined a network created by women in the industry – the ‘Women in Cannes’ WhatsApp group provided an inclusive network of advice, support and encouragement from the beginning.  The group had a hub at the Empower Café and shared learnings and connections to really help empower women in the industry.  I wore their wristband with pride and it facilitated connections with other women in the group when meeting IRL!

The diversity of people coming together was enlightening – people from all backgrounds, genuinely wanting to understand and learn from each other.  It seemed particularly apt that the Olympic torch came down the Croisette on day 2, a representation of the themes in the air: celebration, diversity and championing great talent.

SMG and Threefold are entering the US market and it was fascinating to connect with people experiencing our industry on the other side of the pond – hearing from RMN leads there, such as Albertsons Media Collective and CVS Media Exchange.  Our markets may be different, but the core opportunities and challenges faced are similar. Being able to connect on these topics provided the grounds for discussion and learnings that will drive retail media forward globally.

On a UK front, I enjoyed spending time at the nectar360 event – Sainsbury’s is a business we have had close ties with in our history (I sat in-house at Sainsbury’s in my first role within the business), and being able to reconnect with old colleagues and contacts was a real pleasure. The market has moved on so much, and in all the conversations we were having, the theme was consistent: We need to work together more collaboratively to grow the industry together and all win as a result. 

Overall, the event was a leveller across all people, regardless of whether you were client or agency, representing the likes of Amazon or a start-up business specialising in this space. Everyone was there eager to listen (not just pitch!) to new perspectives and emerging ideas.

I was fortunate enough to be attending with close colleagues – and despite spending regular time with them every week, time away from the day-to-day provided the environment for bigger-picture conversations and a chance to have fun and celebrate what we’ve collectively achieved.

We attended lots of events and worked hard during the day, but there was certainly lots of fun to be had in the evenings too – from networking cocktail hours, making new connections in queues for oversold events through to late nights dancing on the beach and socialising in the gutter bar! In truth, these are some of the memories that will stick with me – having fun and getting to know each other – clients, existing partners, and new contacts - on a personal level is no better way to build long-lasting relationships.

Ultimately, having fun and taking pride in what we do is what it is all about.  We embody these values at SMG, and for me, Cannes was the depiction of why our culture and a people-first approach to everything we do is so powerful – it’s more fun, and it fuels business success!


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