By day, this year's wise men (call them judges) were sequestered in a dark room deliberating on who would be recognized as the best in the clan. Others studied the work of their peers and competitors. Print ads and commercials by the thousands for unfamiliar brands in various languages were displayed. The best were instantly recognized and applauded. The worst were hissed with abandon.
Some soaked up what sun there was on the beach, recovering from the previous night. Those who couldn't get out of bed earned a perverse respect. Here, an all- nighter was a badge of honor. Old and young drew strength from the night.
This was my first trip to the advertising festival at Cannes, and nothing I had been told could have prepared me for it. Thousands from the creative community were drawn together on the C™te d'Azur. This was no association meeting. This was an event. And as it turned out, it
was a series of orchestrated and accidental events that melded into the blur that is Cannes.
There was the "Minibar Man" at the Carlton, known primarily to the Americans. The Martinez bar, where the crowd overflowed into the swimming pool area, boasted revelers talking about advertising, agencies and their national cultures until closing time. From there, it was on to the Chelsea. Or to the double-decker bus imported from London and parked along the Criosette, where breakfast was served-compliments of McCann-Erickson. Or we headed to the beach to watch the sunrise.
Of course, there are some who hate to go. True, the cost is prohibitive to many agencies, and someone is making money. But to dismiss Cannes on these grounds is to miss the point.
The festival has done a clever job providing those lucky attendees with a reason to come. The Lion, complete with all the politics that go into the judging, is an increasingly coveted international creative award. The young creatives competition, based on national lines so as to cultivate a rooting interest, provides a reason for an agency to send promising creatives under 30.
If they remain privileged, they will be back. Meanwhile, the opportunity for creative directors and commercial directors to socialize and talk shop cannot be re-created anywhere else.
Clients and CEOs need not worry. As of last Monday, they were back to hoisting one another on petards. That's a given.
The gathering is a celebration of commercial art by those who create it. That it repeatedly goes into the wee hours running on 1664 beer is not scandalous. It is only proper. Cannes is for those whose ideas fuel the industry: the creatives. That it is a party is only right because here, for a few halcyon days, creative staffers answer to no one but themselves. -Kevin McCormack