With the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity just days away, we tapped Quad’s Chief Marketing Officer Josh Golden for some tips on how to make the most of your time at the industry’s biggest global meetup, how to create meaningful connections and why it’s important to lean into every moment. 

Q. Josh, this is your ninth year at Cannes. How do you make the most of your time there? Any must-sees?

I can’t believe it’s been nine years! I’ll give you an easy must-see and that’s the creative work. A Cannes Lions is the most prestigious advertising award in our industry, so I always encourage people to head over to the Palais and view the work on display.

But the real “must” for me is the relationships you develop. Everyone at Cannes is at the top of their game and is there for a reason. In an industry built on relationships, it’s so important to learn who they are and why they’ve taken the time to be there. Of course, by the end of the week you’re tired of saying “So, what do you do?” and it turns into “What do you do for fun?” and that still eventually leads to “Tell me about your company.” For me, that’s the real work — and where the magic happens.

Catch Quad at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

Q: What about the celebrity-filled parties that always make the Cannes coverage roundups? Are those must-attends for you?

There are always the big parties with major celebrities or musical acts coming in to perform for the brands. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that getting to go to those is an amazing opportunity, but those tickets can be hard to come byI prefer events where I can work a room or, let’s be honest, get some water. It’s hot in Cannes! 

Q: OK, now that you’re hydrated, how do you work an event?

If Im actively working a room, my go-to technique is to be the introducer. Chances are Ill know probably three or four people there already, and my absolute favorite thing to do is to make sure those people get connected to each other. Last year, Quad’s Chief Revenue Officer Julie Currie wanted to meet New York University professor and podcaster Scott Galloway, who just happened to be at an event we walked into. I was lucky enough to be able to introduce them and say, “You two would love one another” and then walk away so I could go do that again for someone else 

Q. On to meetings. What’s your scheduling strategy for Cannes? Any advice for newbies?

Even as a CMO, where meetings are often scheduled for me in advance, the first thing I do is make my own personal punch list of people I’d like to see. If I don’t happen to have their contact details, I’ll jump on LinkedIn to send a quick hello and ask if they’re able to squeeze in some face time. Sure, they may need to cancel given last-minute calendar chaos — something Cannes is infamous for — but you’re still developing and nurturing your network by reaching out and making that connection in the first place, which is invaluable.

If you’re new to Cannes, my best advice is to get good at connecting quickly — and in unexpected places. Scheduled meetings are what they are, but a key part of Cannes is also making room for chance run-ins. I might be hustling along the Croisette to get to my next event, but I’ll use that time to stop and say hello to as many people as possible. You never know who is hustling along right next to you.

Q. Quad is partnering with The Female Quotient at Cannes this year. One of the panels, “Connections that Spark Creativity,” is about that very topic: chance meetings. Can you share a story about one of your most memorable chance meetings at Cannes?

It was my first or second year at Cannes, and I was the publisher of Ad Age at the time. I was on my way to a big MediaLink party, which involved a 30-minute bus ride. I sat down next to David Carey, who at that point was the President of Hearst Magazines. We talked a lot about how the world of publishing was evolving, how much data increasingly mattered and how much the media world had shifted in general. By the end of that half-hour conversation, I made a new friend.

David is someone I continue to communicate with to this day, and he’s become someone I bounce a wide range of things off of, because he’s so brilliant. The best part of that whole thing was that it was complete happenstance.

Q. New friendships aside, how do you keep the connections you’ve made alive and actionable post-event?

Well, as many people now know, I’m a crazy fan of a thank you note. So, I tend to send a thank you note to say: “Hey, great chatting with you,” followed by, “I wanted to ask you this next question.” If they reply, that exchange easily turns into a nice dialogue. I like to think of it as my own little nurture program.

To keep it going, you have to continue with the third step and then the fifth and then the ninth, because follow-through is what matters. I want people to know they can count on me.

Q. Quad has an entire team descending on Cannes this year. What do you hope people will take away from meeting Quad’s executives?

I’m excited for Cannes attendees to walk away knowing all that Quad does. We’ve been a bit of a well-kept secret, largely because we were tucked away into the world of printing. But there are so many other things we do with our MX suite of solutions, from our best-in-class creative capabilities to our global production capacity to our data-driven media expertise — all of which are worthy to have a person walk away and say, “Wow, I didn’t know Quad did that.”

We’re at Cannes with a great story to tell — about how as a marketing experience (MX) company, we work with literally thousands of brands to make trusted consumer connections across household, in-store and online.

Q. Last question. We’ve heard about your nightly gelato ritual. Are we invited?

On the main drag, on the Croisette, there’s a great gelato place, Le Quirly, and each night when I’m walking back to whichever apartment I’ve rented, I always stop for ice cream. It allows me to recognize that the day is finally over and, also, I likely didn’t get a chance to eat dinner anyway… it’s still protein, right?

So, this year, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, I’m going to buy everyone I’m with an ice cream. Pistachio is my go-to, by the way. They make it fresh and it’s so good. If you’re in Cannes, come by.

The 2024 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity is June 17-21. For details on joining Josh for gelato or to attend a Quad-sponsored event, please check out the full Cannes schedule at Quad.com.

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