Cannes Countdown: What Not to Miss This Year

Cannes Lions kicks off Sunday with an unusually promising line-up of interactive content – even by the standards of the last few digitally obsessed years.

p6218429ClickZ News will once again hit La Croisette, delivering in-depth coverage of the Grand Prix winners, big ideas, and beach parties. Meanwhile, if you’re lucky enough to be among the 9,000 advertising professionals expected in Cannes, here’s a rundown of what not to miss:

Google elder statesman Eric Schmidt, no longer at the company’s helm, will ponder how innovation drives the Web. He’ll be joined by Andy Brendt, the guy in charge of Google’s Creative Lab. The Creative Lab is favored by some to win Lions for its work on Arcade Fire’s interactive video “The Wilderness Downtown” and the Chrome Speed Tests. (Wednesday)

Google also has a “Creative Sandbox” on the beach, open daily from noon, that’s worth a peek.

B-Reel, a hybrid agency and production company, will host a panel with people from Wieden+Kennedy, Grey, and 180 LA to discuss digital production and creative process. (Saturday)

Crispin Porter + Bogusky develops reliably brilliant concepts and is one of the winningest agencies at Cannes. But in the last several months, it has suffered a number of setbacks, including the loss of Burger King, Groupon, and Jose Cuervo. So it will be interesting to see what Chairman Chuck Porter, CEO Andrew Keller, and CCO (and interactive whiz kid) Jeff Benjamin have to say in the agency’s dedicated session. (Thursday)

It wouldn’t be Cannes without a smattering of major celebrities, some weirdly irrelevant to advertising. Take for instance actor Jesse Eisenberg, whose portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg (a speaker last year) apparently qualifies him to discuss social media on a global stage, as he will in a session hosted by MOFILM. (Wednesday) Or rocker Patti Smith, who will appear in Grey’s annual Music Legends seminar. (Friday) Both are worth checking out, of course. Just don’t take notes.

Other big names are more directly suited to the ad sector:

-Pharrell Williams will appear with Digitas and Vevo to discuss the marriage of music and marketing in a Tuesday session. (Tuesday)

-Robert Redford will address contemporary storytelling with Yahoo’s North America EVP Ross Levinsohn, a major content and startup investor in his own right, and Ben Silverman, founder of Electus. (Tuesday) will technology and creativity alongside composer Tod Machover and senior execs from MRM Worldwide, McCann Worldgroup, and Intel. (Thursday)

Of course, you can also catch real advertising celebrities, such as WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell in a must-see debate with News Corp heir James Murdoch and DreamWorks (Friday); or Publicis CEO Maurice Levy interviewing Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke later the same day. (Friday)

In general, the client spotlights are worth catching. At no other time or place in the world can you hear CMOs and CEOs from giants like Diageo (Monday), Coca-Cola (Tuesday), and Unilever (Friday) hold forth on their global marketing strategies. Whether it’s the Riviera sun or the agency flattery, something about Cannes works on their brains like truth serum.

A few other notable happenings:

-Malcolm Gladwell, the frizzy-haired Icarus of contemporary social theory, will talk innovation. (Monday)

-It’s a little known fact that Tim Armstrong and/or Arianna Huffington appear at literally every conference of note, including philately meet-ups and yachting exhibitions. At Cannes Lions they’ll take the stage as one to chat about AOL’s rapidly evolving content strategy. (Monday)

-Facebook’s top global marketer, Carolyn Everson, will talk about how businesses are leveraging the world’s fastest growing platform. A bit of a sales pitch, sure, but hey, it’s Facebook. (Wednesday)

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