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To Cannes or not to Cannes?

Cannes 2023 - time to start planning to make a Big Bang on a small budget?

If you’re a start-up in the ad or martech space - do you go to Cannes Lions in 2023? And if you go, how to do it and get bang for your buck?

To learn about how to do Cannes Lions (or similar events) on a tight budget, we had a chat with Tommy Torjesen, co-founder of Cavai and a favourite client of The Scale Factory. Cavai are probably world champions on maximising the ROI of their Cannes Lions trips.

First, a bit of background on Cavai. Established in Norway in 2018, they have now built a company with close to 100 employees, that every year serves roughly 1BN conversational ad impressions. They are established in 11 markets across Europe, US and Asia. The Scale Factory have built their APAC presence since 2020.

Cannes Lions holds a special place in Cavai’s development. Tommy and Steffen Svartberg, his co-founder, met while gate-crashing a yacht party for the Daily Mail in 2017, and they quickly agreed ‘they should do something together’. Next spring, plans started taking shape, they decided to build conversational advertising into the next big thing.

To get their MVP done, they found it prudent to set a deadline for product readiness and first client going live. This would also be the official launch of the company. To increase the stakes and pressure slightly, they decided to let this coincide with a launch party at Cannes. The invite was very successful, and they ended up with a guest list of 400 industry luminaries for a ‘bbq and ballgames’ style pool party at a small villa they had rented.

Nothing focuses executional resources as an impossible deadline, something learned from Steve Jobs perhaps? Problem was, a week before the event, the MVP still wasn’t ready and the first advertiser was getting cold feet.

Luckily the MVP and their first ad did manage to go live - on The Daily Mail no less (one of the worlds biggest internet newspapers) - the day before the launch party, and afterwards their party ended up on the list of the top 20 events of Cannes Lions 2018 that year. The 400 sign-ups formed the initial pipeline for the next year of business development. The rest is history in the making.

So, Tommy, how to do Cannes, Cavai style?

“For gods sakes, don’t buy a festival pass”

It will set you back 1000s of euros - and you’ll probably end up going to very few presentations. Plus the chances of your company being invited to speak at the Palais du festival is very, very small. Rather, think of Cannes as a collection of mini conferences and networking parties, all orbiting the larger, main conference.

“Its all about cabana events and networking parties”

Companies start marketing their Cannes events 3 to 4 months before the event is happening. Ideally, you already have some ins with some of the likely event organisers, because your job now is to get on as many invite lists as possible. Also, try to get ahold of a delegate list from friends with festival passes if possible.

Your job, while at Cannes, is to get as many good conversations going as possible. To do that, you need to get access to arenas where people meet. The good thing is, once you’re in, everyone assumes you have a good reason for being there. Even if you’re a young company with barely a working MVP, as Cavai once was. So don’t be shy, get on the list. Find friends in organising companies to help you, or ally yourself with friends on the advertiser side. Everyone wants advertisers in their events…

Also, remember its better to make fewer, deeper connections, than a tonne of superficial ones.

“Stake out a regular spot for your crew to reconvene”

Everyone needs a home, find a regular place for lunches and invite a combo of people to gather together. Doesn’t have to be fancy and luxurious, after a few days at the festival a down to earth pizza works as well as truffles and caviar. Booking a regular place ahead for the week means you always know where to meet people as well, if you are rebooking meetings.

“Don’t be shy about peacocking a bit!”

The name of the game is being noticed and striking up conversations. Don’t take yourself too seriously, there are enough self important pricks in the world. If acting out a bit helps facilitate starting more conversations, do it!

“Have fun, but also have a plan”

While I am sure Cavai easily could top a ‘most fun vendor to hang out with in Cannes’ competition, we are also very careful about capturing absolutely every interaction in our CRM, and following up every interaction afterwards. We conservatively expect 50 to 60 real revenue opportunities to come out of Cannes every year. Our ROI on Cannes will be at least 10x the spend”

“If you’re going to do an event - be creative”

Cavai hasn’t done an event at Cannes since our launch, but if we were to do one again, it would be in the same vein where we give people an unexpected and down to earth experience, fitting for our brand. Hot dogs and chit chat rather than champagne and concerts.

“Finally, start planning now!”

Get onto AirBnB now, and book your accommodation for a fraction of the price it will cost closer to the venue. If you end up not going, you can always cancel it later. Similar with any other strategic resource you want to get a hold off, the closer to the date of the event we’re coming, the more expensive it will be.

There you have it, Cannes done Cavai style. Good luck with 2023!


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