The Cannes Lions Wrap That Will Make You Feel Like You Went, Hangovers and All
Here is where I distill the Cannes experience and make a lot of reflections that the world will forget or, more likely, simply never read. So I'm gonna start with the videos and photos, culminating in the longest wrapup of Cannes ever, which you must all read or perish.
Not really. If, after all that, you still want to read the reflections, scroll all the way down.
Chelsi of CMSWire and I pick up badges, then wander through the dizzying heat. Somewhere on the Rue d'Antibes, we find Brian Morrissey of AdWeek walking toward us as if in a dream. He tells us, curiously enough, that he is looking for a special pizza place. We kidnap him; he is ambivalent about his fate.
Brian joins us on a fairly boring camera wire and headphones hunt. We find his mystic pizza place, but it is closed, so we settle for another. His pizza has a sunny side-up egg on it and causes a small drama during which time he eats around the egg while I aggressively try convincing him to just try it. He finally tells me to. Egg on pizza is horrible.
Dinner at Chaperon Rouge that night.
Wake up to first official Cannes hangover. Chelsi and I have lunch on some rocks and admire the radioactive orangeness of the yacht flunkies.
We meet David on Demand for the first time. He offers us a drink but cannot actually buy it for us because the Internet tells him to jump on a tram.
We hit press room, which is basically purgatory with free drinks and mediocre candy. In the afternoon I attend the Draftfcb cocktail at the Grand. Stephen Martincic pretends not to like me and tells the gatekeeper not to let me in, but I create an opportunity for him to make a joke about my weight so he consents. I kiss Wally Petersen, who is bemusedly holding someone else's camera, and find Ask Wappling of Adland shooting the shit with Asif Ansari of The Duffy Agency. Shannon Stephaniuk of Glossy comes soon after.
The cocktail party disappears, leaving us four with a garden terrace and a giant - seriously giant! - bucket of liquor. The liquor will be mutilated before we are through.
We drink to incoherence then stumble off to dinner. I lose them because of a drive-by hello from Draftfcb's Mark Fiddes, end up dining with the Lions news team instead. We have crepes.
TUESDAY (and/or WEDNESDAY, as it is no longer really clear)
The days are beginning to blend together in an unnatural manner. Here is a 360° view of the front of the Palais:
I see David on Demand again. This time he has a Failwhale tattoo.
Most of the day I sit with Ask and Benjamin, of CulturePub fame, on the beach. We whip out our laptops, ask for the wifi password and work under a stinging sun. There is rosé and also juice.
In the evening we migrate from the beach to the Carlton. Benjamin leaves us and Ask shacks up at a table with Kerrie Finch et al., flowing with free champagne. En route to the table, Philippe Paget of Adforum by my side, I am distracted by a seated circle of surly men that includes Zach Rodgers of ClickZ and Brian Morrissey. Philippe goes on without me; I remain with the journalists. We sit dead center of the Carlton terrace, wondering why nobody wants to talk to us since we are obviously the most awesome people here. The night ends at the Gutter Bar, where all nights that fail to reach their potential go to die.
WEDNESDAY (liberally mixed with some memories that actually belong to THURSDAY)
There is an awards ceremony and the Wrath of Cannes finally finds me. They give me a tight black shirt with The Grand Coney on it, ask me to put it on and have me pose. I do some stupid Asian pose thing, but in retrospect I wish I'd flipped the camera off because that would have been serious balls-out Wrath of Cannes attitude.
I spend most of the rest of the evening thinking how amazing I would have been if I had lifted my middle finger. Everyone would have loved me and I would be famous. Since I cannot not go back in time and do that, I snap a picture with the local Cannes mother/daughter hooker team and hang with Ask the rest of the night.
Somewhere in the front of the Carlton we find The Barbarian Group's Benjamin Palmer with his intimidatingly hot wife. Benjamin agrees to give me an impromptu interview as long as I don't make him look too lushy.
I guess I didn't but I am not sure, even now.
We talk about space for awhile and then they leave. Later, some university science majors from the UK hear me having an angry Berkeley rant in the loo later and decide to hang with me and Ask the rest of the night. They are amused by the ad people. Nobody goes home until 6 AM.
Mark Fiddes invites me to a really nice lunch with the Mad Cow production team, Havas and other people who are famous in our industry and nowhere else in all the universe.
Mark tells me about a drama happening with a client in Western Europe, something about having to hire a blonde versus a brunette (which would be groundbreaking but maybe too edgy).
There is so much rosé.
Seated across from me is Barry Stephenson of Clarity Production Management, which connects people with Japanese production teams and directors. Barry explains the world to me and decides to take me under his wing. Among other folk, he introduces me to a compelling 3D director who explains how Suzuki made its fortune (a story of theft, scandal, something about Nazis?):
Pete Chambers of Mad Cow tells me what he calls "the best joke in the world" and is upset because I keep interrupting to pose questions. The punchline is not funny but he says it's because I ruined it with all my prodding. I want to hug him but his enormousness and formidability keeps me at a distance. Also, his getting-stung-by-bees dance didn't help (it was part of the joke). This is Pete with Jonas Blanchard, both the MAD in Mad Cow:
Barry, Mark and I go to the Grand for drinks, then we drift apart and promise to find each other again later.
Me, Ask and Joe La Pompe meet up to record an uncomfortably ghetto-sounding AdVerve in the lobby. The Grand people are sweet about it but can do nothing to prevent the jazz intermittently playing in the background. They do make sure we have drinks, nuts, a private corner and an electrical outlet, though. This made me love them.
In the evening, I dine with Mark and Barry at Maschou, a wonderful restaurant that gives you a giant basket of fresh fruits and vegetables as "crudites."
We talk about everything, and when we leave, the restaurant gives me a rose.
On our way back to the Croisette we come across another faction of Draftfcb executives, who are deeply engaged in perfecting "O Tanenbaum!"
After that we hit the Shots party. It is highly exclusive and the gatekeepers give us trouble at the door, then they feel bad about it and let us in with pockets stuffed with enough drink cards to kill us three times over. I find Ask with a Financial Times reporter called Tim, who is really sweet and has a neat shirt so we share all our secret problems having to do with men and sex. This makes him uncomfortable. As he leaves us, he says he hopes we sort all our sex/men problems out.
I think we end up at the Carlton again after that. Probably. And maybe this is the night where we meet all those college kids. Yes, actually I think it is.
I have lunch at a restaurant on the dock with author Mark Tungate of Ad Land, Branded Male and other things. This is our annual Cannes tradition. Here is a picture of him having lunch with me at the same restaurant, except last year:
We have a bottle of rosé and I confide to Mark that there is an expensive pair of shoes in a window I have been walking by every day this week. There is much liquor inside me now, and I hardly ever sleep anymore, so my resolve is destroyed. The shoes want me to have them, I know it.
Mark, who has also had too much to drink, says that after lunch he will accompany me to the store and help make an informed adult decision.
True to his word, he joins me. The sales girls are too nice to me and after a few cursory glances in all the requisite directions we try on my shoes. Mark says I should buy them, and I do, because I know this is a purchase I will never in the rest of my life regret.
These are the shoes, except mine are black.
Later (or was it earlier?), I help him buy a festive little Cannes chapeau. He looks dangerously fancy and wears it for the next two days.
Mark and I separate: he for a meeting down the Croisette, me for an interview at the Majestic. There I find Kerrie Finch and Richard Gorodecky, beaming and waiting for me. Kerrie makes me show her my shoes, and I let her open all the elaborate and beautiful packaging because it's funner to watch someone else do it, especially when you know the incredible thing that they find inside will be yours, not theirs. Such is the dynamic of women who love similar things.
I have rosé, Sarah Taylor comes and we conduct a truly memorable interview with Richard that I love deep inside my soul. Then we part ways and I hit up the award ceremony for ACT Responsible, where Draftfcb's Stephen sees my shopping bag from across the terrace and makes me show him my shoes.
The ceremony goes swimmingly. I pump Wally up for his speech and he freaks out because he drops the trophy while handing it to the winner. He spends most of the rest of the evening talking about it, replaying the moment in slow motion with his hands going 'round each other like turbines.
I go to change clothes. This is the night Wally and I have our private HFL (Homie For Life) dinner, but Wally informs me that Stephen is coming, and he is bringing Benoît and Xavier from Draftfcb's Paris office.
I make a weird face and Wally goes, "But Stephen says you love Benoît!" I don't remember who Benoît is.
In any event, we dine at the Grand's famous restaurant, which has one Michelin star. Benoît and Xavier come and it turns to to be true: I do love Benoît, and terribly. Our meal is four courses, all with truffles, and Benoît spends the whole evening panting, making sex jokes, and telling the waiter to bring him more polenta.
Wally cannot stop blushing, and I cannot stop laughing.
Stephen leaves at some point, mysteriously enough, to change his shoes. Xavier gets a phone call and everyone gets quiet.
"It's his wife," Stephen whispers to me. "They are fusionnel."
"What?" I say.
"They are..." Stephen tries explaining fusionnel. Basically they are soul mates. And because this is a very mystical and special thing, it is surrounded by a special reverence.
When Xavier gets off the phone, he tells us they met when they were 16. Wally loves stories about true love, so he gets all into it, and even Benoît is quiet. The silence doesn't last long, though; we sing Dancing Queen, then Whatever Lola Wants, to each other. Benoît demands more polenta and truffles. We dance our way to a roof party at the White Palms, which has a very throbby deejay. Obedient to a fault, we do a little throbbing ourselves.
The night ends yet again at the Carlton, where Wally, Stephen and I manage to score a table. There has been much rosé, there will be more, and our talk is full of cheesy affection. We take MySpace-style pictures and part ways with copious kisses and promises to see Mama Mia together.
I have no nerves or brain cells left.
Chelsi and I pack our luggage and I put on a cotton sweater, which I spend the rest of the day regretting.
Ask, Joe La Pompe and I have lunch together. Joe notices the street is covered in Xerox ads that basically rip off his site. He grows incensed and stops every few feet to slather the copycats with a special Joe La Pompe sticker. We are sympathetic because we have all been bloggers for a long, long time; we know the injustice of no recognition.
Afternoon bears down on us. We go to the press room and I fall asleep across from Ask, who resists the urge to take a photo, but then Shannon comes, and Shannon, sadly, is not as strong:
It is our last day together. We likely won't see each other for another year, maybe longer because Ask is claiming she's never doing this again (she said this last year too). We take a photo together.
After that, it's train station-bound, and another Cannes Lions is over.
THE REFLECTION PART
It's a common compulsion to project a direness, even a flatness, to Cannes because the economy sucks and advertising gets everything wrong or whatever, but those things aren't the truth.
The Cannes Lions experience itself doesn't really change. However slim the showing is, a good number people are determined to make it a debauched, ruinous week-long experience, and that's what they do. To be fair, it's also a fine chance to have creative conversations, and re-meet people you're fond of seeing - people that you've worked with for years and wouldn't otherwise engage with in so casual, so accepting, a setting.
In terms of work, I am a lot happier with the winnings this year than I was last year. A crap economy is the perfect catalyst for strong feelings and self-reflection, for brands and people. Restraint breeds creativity, and the almighty Crisis was the foundation for beautiful and inventive work that speaks to deep longings or explores cultural roots: Nike Chalkbot, Onitsuka Tiger's Tansu shoe, "The Gift" for Philips Cinema's Parallel Lines project.
I was told in a secret scoop today that the Cannes Lions plans to change its name, because it's no longer really just a festival of advertising; it sees itself more now as a celebration of creativity. I hope they don't stop there because there is more to the Cannes Lions than that; it's creativity for a communicative purpose.
We aren't mere artists; we're mercenaries that, either for pay or conviction, are in the business of persuasion. If your job is to touch people, to make them raise their heads and give them pause, it stands to reason that you should in some way feel responsible for the message you convey, and the art with which you convey it. It is a great weight.
Lastly but not leastly, this man has the sexiest shirt ever in life.