Campaign: From The Gutter Bar to Shangri-La

Speaking with Campaign, Max Gethin our Brand and Marketing Lead who did the Cannes-Glastonbury double, shares what these two tentpole events tell us about the people who attend (or watch from the sidelines), the brands that participate and culture that's created. 

  • That’s right, just like the thousands of others in our industry who flit from the French Riviera to The Farm every June, I’m doing the Cannes-Glasto double this year (though, thankfully, this year there’s a weekend between the two).

    While, on the surface, they may seem wildly different (the swamps and jugglers of Glastonbury at definite odds with the sun-drenched perfection of La Croisette), they share a significant number of parallels. Both cemented in the cultural calendar, drawing in thousands of creatives, artistic visionaries and, of course, 24-hour party people.

    There’s big-name talent (the Lions hosting the likes of Elon Musk, Queen Latifah and Gwyneth Paltrow this year, while Glastonbury’s line-up rarely needs an introduction), endless event spaces to discover and a wealth of tribes with whom to cultivate communities and create new connections through live experiences.

    No two people have the same experience at either event, and everybody comes back with their own unique and highly personal tales of mayhem and misadventure.

    For marketers, these tentpole events (pun firmly intended) aren’t just about the parties and performances. They help us understand specific audiences, act as the spark for subcultures and trends, and tell us more about the brands that partner them.

  • Over the past 54 years, Glastonbury has been carefully curated to ensure there’s something for everybody. Whether you’re into pumping techno, acoustic guitar, spoken word or arts and crafts, Worthy Farm taps into very diverse – and very human – passions.

    On the flip side, Cannes Lions caters for an audience of loud – and often very senior – marketers, hunting for that next big-budget brief. Granted, it’s a vital place to do business, but given that the festival’s founding principle was to recognise world-class creativity and the people behind the campaigns, there’s an argument that this cohort is being slightly sidelined.

    Indeed, I’d confidently wager that the C-suites on La Croisette didn’t come up with those Grand Prix-winning ideas, and that the creatives behind the work weren’t the ones dining out on €5,000 jeroboams of Dom Perignon.

    There’s a job for agencies, brands and the festival organiser to do in making the experience more accessible to creative talent, who aren’t necessarily natural new-biz people, and better equipped to deal with the different personality types that are so key to the true purpose of the festival.

  • Part of the allure and success of Cannes Lions and Glasto are the stories people bring back and the FOMO they create. For years I wanted to go to these two iconic events, not on account of the LinkedIn posts or the BBC live streams, but because of the captivating tales from friends and colleagues.

    Whether it's The Gutter Bar or Shangri-La, the legendary landmarks of these institutions create such a sense of wonder that you feel you have to get a ticket for next year. You’re compelled to forge your own path, make your own adventures and be part of the culture.

  • Although the festivals themselves create their own tangible ambience, there’s also a role for brands in helping deliver a more memorable (and shareable) experience for attendees.

    Sure, at first glance, the logo-bathed beachfront of Cannes couldn’t be more at odds with the NGO-focused festival that is Glastonbury, but it’s interesting to see how brands engage with audiences and, crucially, add value to their experience at both festivals.

    At Cannes, while a lot of them are, of course, there for sales meets, they also provide endless opportunities for inspiration, discovery and fun (as long as you register early or know somebody working on the activation). Brands really do put people at the centre of their experiences and reward them for the time they spend with them.

    Pinterest Manifestival was open to all, with creator-led experiences that allowed visitors to express themselves from beading phone charms and dip-dying Crocs to taking that leap and getting a new tattoo. Netflix housed immersive activations including an Emily in Paris Boulangerie, an electrifying Squid Game challenge and a Bridgerton garden complete with croquet. Meta partnered Es Devlin to create the Reels cinema artistically glorifying the 9:16 format.

    By contrast, Glastonbury’s partners have been carefully selected based on two factors: their values and the value they add to the festival experience.

    Vodafone plays an essential role in keeping people connected and charged, the Co-op provides food and essentials to festival revellers, and have been selected based on their “shared ethos of co-operation, community support, ethical values and campaigning to make meaningful change”, while Greenpeace needs no

    Although there might be room for more brands at Glastonbury, this careful curation helps the festival retain its unique, and uniquely appealing, uncommercial air.

    Both festivals are brilliant in their own right and deservedly have their flags firmly placed in the cultural calendar. They provide some of the world's best experiences to some of the most engaged audiences and I already can’t wait for next year.

    À la prochaine, Cannes. Cheers drive, Worthy Farm.