CANNES, France—Advertising’s biggest festival doesn’t exactly lay out the welcome mat for families. It’s a week long, the schedule is grueling and the bacchanal reputation precedes it.
But in a sign that the times—and the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity—could be changing, an ad-tech owner wants to offer “pop-up child care” for parents who bring their families in 2019.
Loren Rochelle, co-founder and CEO of Los Angeles ad-tech company NOM, has a 6-month-old and nearly turned down an invitation to Cannes this year. She was one of eight women business owners invited to participate in the R/GA & Cannes Lions Start-up Academy. But after some quick research, Rochelle and marketing vp Cyndi Otteson realized the festival wasn’t set up for new moms. Child care, pump stations and other parents with kids in tow were scarce to nonexistent.
Her team convinced her to seize the opportunity, so she packed up her son and went last week. With the help of a nanny and Otteson, she navigated nap time, bedtime and blocked off an hour every day to eat and pump.
But even with extra hands, she said the nonstop schedule was challenging: “It was difficult to find time to do much of anything outside of the program.”
“I found Cannes Lions to be very female-friendly, but not very family-friendly,” Rochelle added. “I’m fortunate to be supported and empowered by R/GA Ventures … they didn’t even flinch when I mentioned I was bringing my 6-month-old.”
Wanting to connect with other moms in her position, she created the hashtag #MomsCannes and hosted a meetup on the beach Thursday. Moms from New York, London and Shanghai attended, as well as a couple dads. Some brought their families along, while others left their kids at home.
Next year, NOM wants to offer child care and is talking to female-focused groups like The Jane Club to make it happen. She hopes the hashtag #MomCannes will support its larger #MomsCan movement.
“The advertising industry as we know it needs to change to accommodate working parents. We found that the women we spoke to weren’t mentioning their families until we said that we were moms. The moment we talked about our kids, their eyes would light up and they were so inspired that we were bringing children to some of the events like the IPG women’s breakfast,” said Rochelle, who was on Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2016. “Taking a note from The Female Quotient and The Girls Lounge, we think more companies and organizations can create space for working parents next year to feel welcomed if they choose to bring their children. To have child care at these industry events, to embrace families.”
Notably, the moms who attended NOM’s meetup were their own bosses, Otteson said. She added that Rochelle is in a privileged position, and child care could help parents with less money and flexibility.
Not everyone would take advantage of daycare centers alongside the rosé-fueled tech beaches and yachts. For every parent who misses their kids, others seem grateful for the break, Otteson acknowledged.
But at a festival as large as Cannes, perhaps there’s room for more than one kind of experience.
“We would love to challenge the industry to bring their kids to Cannes,” she said. As it is, “there’s no room for that. I’ve been on the agency side for 17 years. I know what that’s like—it’s hard to ask if you can bring your kid.”
Ultimately, child care would help diversify the festival, Otteson added: “It’s still just a bunch of white dudes at a dinner table. The reason is their wives are home with the kids.”
Amsterdam-based publicist Jessica Hartley has attended Cannes Lions for 15 years and didn’t dare bring her husband and daughter until this year.
“The reason I never brought them before was because back in the day people always said, ‘Never mix Cannes and family/relationship’—because it can go wrong,” she said. “They need you, you’re on an insane schedule, so your actual loved ones lose out. I considered this in some detail before we came. But I thought, guess what, I’m sure I can find a way, and the experiment paid off for me.”
Mixing family with business turned out to be a game-changer for Hartley, who called pop-up child care a “fab idea.” Attendees embraced her family more than she expected, and her 6-year-old enjoyed dining out with ad industry friends, plus a day trip to Île Sainte-Marguerite.
It led to an aha! moment.
A highlight was “going to dinner with my kid and then realizing, weirdly, how many ad people dropped by who she had met before. I thought I separated life from work, but maybe less so than I realized,” she said. “[I realized] this business means something. Not because of ads per se, but the friendships you make, making those ads.”