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The Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity is over, but we’re still feeling the glow of our trip there.

The rest of you probably thought the eight-day event was a nonstop whirl of yacht parties fueled by an unending waterfall of rosé, but what we experienced there reinvigorated us for the work we are doing back here at Adestra on behalf of our clients and partners.

Sure, the parties were great, and we were as interested as anybody else in the films and commercials that won Bronze, Silver and Gold Lions as well as the coveted Grand Prix. But what we took away, and what we will build on now that we’re home, are all the connections we made and the wealth of creativity on display everywhere.

Cannes wasn’t all fun, sun and rubbing shoulders with the biggest names in tech, advertising, music and film on the beaches of southern France. Matt represented Adestra and First-Person Marketing during a panel discussion, “Moving from Impressions to People,” at our home away from home, the OMD Oasis. (More on that later!)

Here’s a quick look at what we saw, learned, discussed and brought back.

Creativity flourishing everywhere

The real power of the Cannes Lions is the focus on creativity throughout the show. It’s not just showcasing the best TV commercials in the world (like Burger King’s Grand Prix-winning takeover of Google Home devices) and other entertainment.

But it was also the discussions, both planned and spontaneous, that cropped up everywhere on what creativity is or isn’t, how to nurture it, how to pay for it and how to make it pay.

From panel discussions to TED Talk-style lectures, videos and TV commercials, creativity was on tap everywhere. The best conversations were about fostering creativity on behalf of or within your clients, where to look for the extra nugget to push forward, how to push the boundaries of the client’s vision and when to stick with what’s traditional.

Conversations without conversions

We’re conference veterans. We know that every fabulous freebie has a hook in it, and everybody you talk to is scanning the room behind you looking for a better score. But this was different.

But, this time, what delivered the greatest good was the conversation – the never-ending, always-changing conversations that flowed as freely as the rosé – with people as diverse as the CMO of a huge financial group, the Tim Armstrong (CEO of AOL), Russell Simmons,  the social media director for Ogilvy and a hedge fund manager looking for the next big investment.

No one was there to sell directly. Everyone was there to learn, to talk about pain points and solutions, and then leave it at that. You might reconnect after the show. Cannes focused on building friendships. That’s what gets you to the close.

Whether it happened on land at one of the major activations by Facebook, YouTube or Comcast or out on a yacht where you listening to the head of advertising for McDonald’s, we were constantly learning from and connecting with people who were all trying to do the same thing: build relations with customers and convert traffic into sales.

Email: The unexpected player

Right about now, you’re probably wondering what email geeks like us were doing at a non-email event like Cannes. Matt was there to explain how email helps brands earn the attention of the consumer – it both identifies those consumers individually and confers trust because those recipients have already given those brands permission to communicate with it.

But, also, we wanted to get away from the echo chambers of our own narrow-interest conferences and see what’s up and coming on an international scale. What were people talking about on hot topics like GDPR and the right of privacy, for example? We also spoke with key people from companies like CBS and NBC about the power of email and the challenge of identifying consumers in ad-tech.

Next year in Cannes

Are we going back? Oh, yes!

Cannes is SXSW without food trucks, Burning Man with water, CES without Vegas. It’s conversations in a dozen different languages plus connections, creativity and, yeah, celebrities, all in tightly packed rooms and overflowing at parties.

But it’s also a spot that welcomes people with a clear vision and purpose and something to contribute to the conversation. In our case, it’s email. We went to learn. We think we helped make people smarter about email. We’ll be back.