Memories of my first Cannes on the eve of my fifth.

June 23, 2009

My hotel, the mighty Carlton…

The first time I went to Cannes my agency booked me into a villa. A villa in the South of France! You can imagine how excited I was. Alas, though my trip had many high-points said villa was not one of them. The accommodation was a warren of un-air-conditioned, cubbyholes dug into the side of a hill many kilometers away from town. The property did have an outdoor Jacuzzi. Unfortunately, it was almost constantly inhabited by a group of drunk, sunburned Germans. Vile in every way, I never went near them or it. I did, however, befriend a mouse-cat that had found its way into my room every night. In the end, if you’re in your hotel room you’re either ill, making love, sleeping or dead. I wasn’t any of those.

On that maiden voyage I also had to sing for my passage. Leo Burnett had asked a planner and me if we could make a presentation based on one of the agency’s proprietary tools: the Brand Belief System. Of course, I said yes. They were offering a villa for Christ’s sake!

Our big presentation was slotted for midweek at 10 AM. This being my first visit to Cannes, I had no idea how late people stayed up (all night) and how late people slept in (until noon). Every advertising professional from Europe or America was still in bed. Unbelievably, the main auditorium at the Palais Theater was not empty. Instead, the seats were filled with the only people who hadn’t drunk themselves comatose the night before: Asian advertising students.

That was the good news. As well as the bad news. Few of the hundreds in attendance spoke English as a primary language. Of course they understood the fundamentals pretty well; the only problem was my partner and I had created a presentation rich in colloquial ideas and speech. We spoke of cults. Challenged belief systems. Made reference to western deities. The entire thing flew over there heads like a 747. When it ended, we received obligatory applause from the polite Asians but no one asked questions. Like bad sex it was over quick and the awkwardness malingered.

And so, Gentle Reader I begin my fifth visit to the International Advertising Festival in Cannes. I work for a different agency. And I am staying at a nice hotel. Instead of making speeches I will be blogging. (from Talent Zoo #canneslions)


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