It isn't just about the awards. With Cannes attracting the biggest and brightest when it comes to talent, recruiting takes the spotlight.
As the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity gets underway, and thousands of attendees descend on the French Riviera hoping to come home with awards, a few lucky ad executives may walk away with something potentially even better: new jobs.
That?s because Cannes is a hotbed of recruiting activity, so much so that agency talent managers and headhunters mark the week on their calendars, strategically plot out their days to ensure they meet with the best potential job candidates, sometimes planning their activities months in advance. Top agencies usually treat a trip to Cannes as a way to reward their top creatives. But they do so knowing there?s an inherent danger: some of them might not come back.
?Talent is the principle focus of the show, said Jay Haines, CEO of Grace Blue, a top executive recruiting firm for the ad industry. ?Almost more than the awards.?
Take Havas. Patti Clifford, the agency?s chief talent officer, and Abby Grozenski, director of talent, tomorrow, map out their week well in advance, hoping to land meetings with specific candidates while also hoping serendipity strikes in the relaxed setting of the Riviera.
?It?s a mix of targeting and organic stuff that happens,? said. Ms. Clifford. ?It?s the only place you have all that talent hanging together every day.? And unlike formal interviews in conference rooms, Cannes is more social and relaxed, which helps with recruiting.
?Sometimes you just end up in interesting conversations,? said Ms. Grozenski. ?Culture is really important. A resume and a portfolio are great indicators of talents. But sometimes there?s the chemistry. And some Cannes meetings lead us to say, ?we need to get that person.?
While Cannes is a place where potential hires can let their hair down and be themselves, it?s also increasingly international in makeup. ?There are two reasons you go to Cannes,? said Brandon Cooke, Global Chief Marketing Officer at mcgarrybowen. One is to see all this creative work and get inspired, and to meet all these incredibly inspiring peers. Two, everyone actually shows up.?
Including the biggest names in the industry. According to several Cannes veterans, while the festival tends to be wall-to-wall networking, the biggest meetings tend to happen off site at swanky hotels and private villas outside of Cannes, such as the Eden Roc Hotel or the Grand Hotel du cap Ferrat, where the Sir Martin Sorells of the world might decamp to go after big fish.
?You?re always nervous, thinking, ?who has a meeting that no one else knows about,?? said one veteran agency executive. That increasingly includes talent from across the globe, as more and more agencies look to hire the best minds from Asia, South America and other locales?not just to run agencies in their own countries?but to come to the U.S. and work.
Besides looking to nab creative-director types, some top agency leaders use Cannes to go shopping: for agencies. Several agency insiders said they?d hardly be shocked if one or two of the major holding companies used Cannes to announce acquisitions of smaller shops.
A more recent trend has been more clients showing up at Cannes, which some ad creatives grumble over. And because clients are lingering about at the various yacht parties, Cannes has also become a place to steal business. While it's doubtful that a brand manager will dump his old agency on the spot at Cannes, the right meeting with an impressive creative shop can sow the seeds for a breakup down the road.
But it?s talent that really drives the Cannes jockeying. After all, there?s not much else agencies have to set themselves apart. ?Talent is everything,? said Mr. Haines. ?It is the absolute differentiator in this industry. You?ve got to make this week count."