Any trip to the French Riviera can be expensive, but if you’re taking your company to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, it’s a massive investment, from the thousands of dollars in entry fees for companies submitting work to the price of a yacht rental (the Daily Mail’s celeb-filled yacht purportedly cost $2M to rent for the week).

Even so, more than 15,000 agencies, brands, marketers, and creatives descend upon the Croisette every June, so it must be worth it, right? After bringing our company, GumGum, there for the first time this year, we are happy to report it was. Here’s why.

It’s all about relationships

Figuring out the ROI on such a pricey event can be a challenge. The most common metric is the number of meetings held with new potential clients. The majority of companies I spoke with track meetings actively in their CRM, and then tie them to business opportunities. For other companies, it’s mostly about nurturing and strengthening relationships with existing clients.

For us, it’s a little bit of both. We had more than 150 meetings in Cannes, and for every current client we were able to catch up with and build on an existing relationship, we were able to meet with a lot more prospective clients, often ones we hadn’t even targeted due the breadth of Cannes Lions’ scope and its international nature. We work with agencies, brands, publishers, and demand side partners, and it’s great to be able to build or grow new relationships with these four different constituencies. In the end, almost 1,000 clients, prospects and reporters came to the GumGum yacht, and we collected more than 500 business cards.

The world shows up.

If you’re a company that does any business outside of your country, Cannes is a must, because there are so few international advertising shows in our industry where you can have, say, American, British, French, and Chinese attendees together at the same dinner table. Two years ago, a show like Cannes Lions wouldn’t have been useful for us, but we recently expanded our presence internationally to Europe, Australia, and Canada, and we’re growing that part of the business quickly, so Cannes was just the right move in 2016.

Don’t knock the schmooze.

In a business with so much competition and sometimes complex technology offerings that distinguish you, relationships are absolutely key, and the best place to forge and maintain those relationships is in person. And yes, people like to meet over drinks, food, music, or boat cruises – the more casual setting allows for unofficial conversations, brainstorms, and out-of-the box thinking that often and eventually lead to new business initiatives or strategic solutions.

We held conferences on our boat with our marketing partners that combined educational workshops with food and drink, which gave us an opportunity to educate key brands and agencies around trending topics such as computer vision, where we could not only participate as speakers, but also chat with participants and attendees afterward.

There are other intangible benefits of Cannes networking that can help you recoup your cost. For example, our CTO had a chance to meet with another CTO in the programmatic space. Over late night drinks, they shared different techniques to optimize our programmatic solutions offering. We are confident that this discussion will generate more than one hundred of thousands of dollars in savings.

Standing out from the crowd doesn’t have to cost a bundle.

With so many attendees, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost at Cannes Lions,. Yes, you can rent a yacht, as we did, and that certainly builds buzz and ensures that people will come to your event and meet with you, but there are less costly ways that also provide great ROI. We had tremendous success with our Cannes Lions Survival Kits. These were delivered to more than 1,000 people, including all the premium delegates, and resulted in meetings and buzz for us. The cost of doing something like this is less than the cost of a one-page ad in a popular marketing magazine

You don’t have to rent a yacht or get celebrities on board to make Cannes work for you, but if you’re an international company, are focused and creative with your event-related marketing initiatives, and are open to the intangible benefits of schmoozing, then Cannes Lions is definitely worth it.