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Wild On Cannes

Posted on July 23, 2008 and read 4,046 times

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The city of Cannes seems to hold a mythical allure. In fact, it’s not so much a city as it is a destination. Nestled between swanky boutiques flashing fancy foreign names and the magical topless beaches of the French Riviera lies enough red carpet to keep Joan Rivers alive for another five lifetimes.

It’s a land that breeds tales. Tales of victory, of extravagance, of sordid late nights spilling—sometimes stumbling—into the squinty French morning. It’s a place where the greatest minds in advertising from around the globe flock to congregate, congratulate and celebrate.

So what the hell was I doing there?

Just four days prior, my Creative Circus cohorts and I found out we had won part of the AKQA Future Lions competition, raised $10,000 in five hours with an online bake sale and booked four overpriced roundtrips to Paris. You can read our full story here.

But more than just a sweet trip to the south of France—which it really, really was—our experience in Cannes was a window into the soul of the industry—a window that might have gotten a little barf spray on it during a late-night “networking” session or two but was always Windexed sparkling clean by morning.

If you’ve already been, lucky you. If you haven’t, I’m going to try to save you about three grand right now.

The thing that struck us so immediately and so consistently during our week in Cannes was how amazingly wonderful everyone was. Granted, pretty much everyone there was a) on vacation, b) at a bar or soon headed to one and c) the recent recipient of a prestigious international award. But still, at every turn everyone from intern to ECD was always willing to offer a helping hand or some sagacious words of wisdom. Or a beer. (At 7€ a pop, you do not turn that down, my friend.)

Looking out across the sea of bodies flittering around Gutter Bar every night I couldn’t help but be overcome by the feeling that, “Yes. This is the place.”

There’s a hum of kinetic energy that hovers over the week.

It’s sort of a frat party in which all the white dudes in polos and khaki shorts have been replaced by multinational dudes in ironic tees and skinny jeans. Wild stories are created and recounted, the few women there are getting unabashedly hit on, and by the end of the night bottles are being smashed in the streets. Oh yes, and everyone there is brilliant.

As someone walks past clutching a few bottles of champagne, someone else leans over and whispers that that was so-and-so who did this famous campaign for that client and last year at an agency party they saw them do this or that.

Cannes never lacks an interesting story to tell or an incredible person to meet.

Nowhere else in the world can you walk up to a group of newly formed friends and find a CD from Spain, a senior writer from Finland, a junior team from Brazil and some ad-nerds-turned-web-geniuses from Canada. (Editors Note: he means us ihaveanidea lunatics) It’s moments like these that are the heart of Cannes.

Sure, there’s probably a fair share of politics that shape the week—where isn’t there? But then there are also a few breathtaking moments that make us stop and remember that we can be bigger than ourselves and that advertising can be bigger than a beautifully produced :30 spot or a funny headline.

Seeing JWT Mumbai win India’s first ever Integrated Lion and planting its flag on the world stage. Hearing David Droga present The Tap Project to a room of 150 hungry young creatives hanging on his every word. Watching the premiers of brilliant new talent burst onto a 200-foot screen during the Saatchi & Saatchi New Director’s Showcase. These are moments that give Cannes a collective set of goosebumps.

As much as the week is about winning awards to make one stand apart from the rest of the world, it’s also about becoming part of the rest of the world. Unlike predominantly American festivals, Cannes overflows with as much patriotic fervor as it does with border-erasing camaraderie.

Come to think of it, it’s sort of like what the Olympics would be like if everyone wasn’t athletic in any way but still could pound beers and mange to be witty till 5:00 in the morning.

Before you think that Cannes is one giant pit of self-congratulating debauchery, it’s also an incredible opportunity to see showcases of the best work in the world and hear the top creative minds speak in seminars and workshops. But I’ll leave for someone else to write about.

In the end, for all the lore that surrounds that magical week in June, Cannes lived up to its reputation.

Sure, I may be a wide-eyed, naïve kid who has yet to be jaded by a harsh industry. But I don’t mind. I had the time of my life. And judging by the look on everyone else’s faces, so did they.

Andy Pearson




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