The Cannes Lions gets its magic back in 2011

I’m back from my fifth and best Cannes Lions Advertising Festival so far. Let’s just say that the magic is back (it felt like a 30% increase over last year) with lots of first timers and no talk of recession. That doesn’t mean the budgets are back, but people appear to be used to the new reality and seem ready to network. Here is what you missed if you didn’t make it–or in case you just “networked” a little too hard to remember.


What happens in Cannes stays on Facebook

How do you explain Cannes to someone who hasn’t attended? Cannes is a marathon, not a sprint. Seven days, 10,000 people to meet . . . go! It’s easy to avoid jet-lag because the day shifts by 6 hours–up at noon, breakfast by 2:00, dinner at 10:00 and bed by sunrise. Rosé (pink water) flows from lunch until morning with almost no effect. By Friday, women sound like Edith Piaf and men sound like Joe Cocker–deep gravely voices that are marinated and well-warn. Even the heartiest of professional networkers hit the wall somewhere along the week, stealing away early at 2:00 a.m. to get some real sleep.

A Tale of two Cannes

There are 2 ways of doing Cannes: as a paid delegate or as an outside networker. I made the mistake of doing both two years ago. I went to the panels from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (no lunch breaks) and then networking from 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. Three or four days of two hours of sleep became unsustainable, but I didn’t want to waste the $3500 delegate pass nor the time to meet people. After learning that most of the speeches were posted free online, I vowed never to do that again.

The second approach–hanging and chilling with people–got better this year with week-long beach tents from Google, Rushes / Little Black Book, FilmBrazil and others. Google really stood out with free refreshments, foosball (my favorite), interactive projects and comfortable lounging. It also brought in an international crowd as opposed to the Carlton Terrace, which is primarily American.

World Cup beach soccer tournament now held every year

Team USA was back for more after our “building year.” We had a great time, making it through back to back games and a handful of injuries. We tied South Africa 0-0, Next year, we need all the agency folk to head over on Monday, not Tuesday.

Food and drink–not necessarily in that order

Cannes entails lots of walking, standing and drinking–activities that require plenty of fuel. Unfortunately, eating food requires deliberate effort, and if you don’t plan for it, you might just forget. After reminding a team mate to eat at 8:00 p.m. (first meal of the day), I went from my 2:00 p.m. breakfast to my 3:00 a.m. lunch with nothing in between. Service in fine restaurants is quite slow and there are very few take-out or fast food places. If the Carleton could import an LA or NY wait-staff for the week, their already inflated profits would quadruple.
To their credit, the Carlton introduced magnums and double magnums of rosé, so drink flowed faster and wider . . . often on the beautiful dresses of women seated at the Terrace. Pouring a seven pound, two foot bottle at 3:00 a.m. is a test for even the most seasoned of professionals.

How do you say zoom zoom in French?

We rent scooters every year, which has some real advantages and some distinct challenges. Taxis in Cannes are few and far between, especially late at night and up in the hills. Zooming around on the scooter between villas works really well because it forces moderation and improves conversation recall. Scooters also help with the last minute meeting across town: just throw on the helmet, figure out the one-way streets and show up.

CDMA, 3G and GSM . . . now we’re talking

IPhone in Cannes is like the inverse of the US. AT&T phones have better communication than at home because they don’t use AT&T’s network. Verizon iPhones don’t work at all due to U.S.-centric GSM technology.

Now we have to worry about 3G plans for iPhone and iPad. I found that an iPhone 100 MB plan works well and could have gotten away with a 50 MB iPad plan. At $1 per MB, data is only slightly cheaper than the extortionist texting rates. But when you hit overages, you are at $5 per MB. A GB movie over 3G would cost $5000.

Pardon moi, monsieur

I grew up studying French but live in southern California, where knowing Spanish is far more practical. Now, one week of the year I dust off my French and order food, make reservations and meet knew friends. I find that southern French people don’t study much English and are far more inclined to respond in French. Parisians, on the other hand, speak to me in English. Cą m’enerve!

Final thoughts

This year was a huge success and next year will definitely be bigger. Digital is finally part of the fabric with Facebook, Google and Yahoo throwing events. And it will take about 51 more weeks before rosé sounds like a good idea.

By Lindsey Jones

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