Cannes in Cairns – triumphs and tribulations in the tropics

Cannes in Cairns was back for its second year, bigger and better! Over 1,500 delegates and 100 speakers travelled to Tropical North Queensland from all over Australia and internationally to see if the rumours where true about how good this event was, and they weren’t disappointed. The conference for advertisers, marketers and creatives, treated guests to a substantial array of networking opportunities, knowledge sharing and industry-leading insights.

Cannes in Cairns is a partnership between The Misfits Media Company, B&T and Pinterest to bring the Australian advertising industry together. The 2023 list of speakers was a who’s who in the media and advertising world from Sir Martin Sorrell, Stan Grant and Jane Caro to Zoe Foster Blake, Abbie Chatfield, Carrie Bickmore and Tommy Little who covered a wide collection of topics in a variety of keynote and panel discussions. Also, international speakers Rahul Mathew, CCO of DDB Mudra Group, and Kat Gomez-Limchoc, ECD of Blackpencil Manila – Leo Burnett Group Manila, shone a spotlight on the creative brilliance emerging from Asia.

In addition to the many well-known, worthy speakers, the networking events were an attractive incentive to attend in their own right. Beachside dinner at NuNu’s, happy hour at Hemmingway’s Brewery, a welcome party at the unique Tanks Art Centre, cruises on the Cannes in Cairns yacht and the Pachamama closing party at Crystalbrook Bailey are just to name a few.

The event also attracted many well-known media and marketing companies to be involved showcasing the significance of the event in the industry. Starting with Pinterest as the presenting partner, major media outlets, numerous advertising and creative agencies, social media channels and many other organisations wanting to reach this influential audience lined up to be event sponsors.

Cannes in Cairns is more of festival of events rather than a conference and behind the scenes there is a lot of creativity, brainstorming and planning to bring the event to life. The delegate experience is considered at every touch point of the event, from the arrival at the airport and thought-provoking keynote speakers, to engaging sponsor activations and purposeful networking events. Cannes in Cairns is not your everyday work conference.

While the many Cannes in Cairns attendees learnt, grew and networked at the conference, the team behind the scenes faced many challenges in bringing the event together. The inaugural event in 2022 faced numerous COVID delays and disruptions. The 2023 event was set to be bigger, better and easier the second time around but unfortunately this wasn’t the case.

The conference was scheduled to be the first event in the Cairns Convention Centre’s $176 million expansion, utilising the new light filled exhibition space and plenary on the Mezzanine Level. The event was also planning grand entrances through the new main entrance from the Porte cochere, and up and down the new escalators. The delegate experience was planned carefully with the flow through the exhibition spaces designed to give event partners and sponsors maximum engagement and exposure. Unique exhibition booths were under construction, fitting within the planned spaces.

Ten weeks out from the conference the venue team were informed that construction of the expansion was delayed, and new spaces were not going to be ready for events in May. The delays meant that the venue team had work with The Misfits team to move the exhibition into existing spaces within the Centre, the sponsors had to re-configure their exhibition booths to new spaces and heights, the production team had to build and plan for three stages instead of one and the delegate experience had to be reimagined. The planned flow of the event had to be drastically altered as the exhibition had to be split across different areas and return on investment for sponsors was a concern due to traffic flow and space changes.

The Misfits and venue team worked closely to come up with solutions to ensure the revised event still delivered the wow factor and event partners found the event a worthwhile investment. Together, with a positive, solution focussed mindset event organisers, event partners and the venue team managed to deliver another mind-blowing Cannes in Cairns. Event goers were none the wiser to all the last-minute changes and the event experience was talked about long after leaving the tropics.

While there were challenges to delivering Cannes in Cairns in 2023, the benefit the conference provides Cairns is incredibly significant. Research into the event by Australia’s leading business consultancy, IER showed that:

  • 1,632 people travelled to Cairns for the event
  • 6,476 visitor nights were generated
  • Over $4.2 million direct and incremental expenditure in the local region

Janet Hamilton, General Manager of the Cairns Convention Centre said the results of the event show the benefits of business events to Cairns.

“The Centre plays a key role the local economy by attracting high yielding visitors to the region. With over $4.2 million in direct and incremental spend across this 4-day conference, the research demonstrates the value of hosting national and international conferences, and positive impact on local businesses,” Hamilton said.

“We want to thank The Misfits team for being very flexible and adapting to the changes and challenges we faced along the way. A great relationship made it easier to over the obstacles we all faced. We are looking forward to working with the team again to bring the 2024 event to life in the Centre’s new expansion,” added Hamilton.  


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