Day 1: Greetings from Cannes!
Flashback: A long flight from Mumbai - a brief halt at Zurich - and a short flight to Nice. Voila! I have touched French soil.
While exiting the airport, I spot a man holding a placard that says “Martinez Hotel welcomes Miles Young”. If the worldwide CEO of Ogilvy is near, you know that you are nearing the most sought-after destination - the Mecca - of the advertising, media and marketing world.
A 45-minute drive brings me to my final destination. Cannes!
After checking in to the hotel, a helpful concierge directs me to Leonetre – a cute café, one of the few in Cannes, I am told, that can do justice to the appetite of a pure vegetarian. With a satiated stomach, it was time for me to walk down the Croisette – the famous promenade that Cannes boasts of – to relive memories from the last visit. The advertising festival only begins the next day, so it is time for me to sleep out the jet lag. I wake up at 8pm, only to see a bright skyline outside the hotel window – the wonders of being in Europe during the summer. There is a nip in the air as I step out to stretch my legs and grab a quick bite - a bland vegetarian pizza – with carrots, tomatoes and cucumber. It’s time to get back to the hotel to plan the next day. And go to sleep.
And today: It’s Sunday! And rather than rest, the advertising fraternity is all headed to the Palais, to register themselves for the festival. The official number of people already registered is 8,000. And most of them seem to be ahead of me, in a serpentine queue to get their identity card. An equally long queue of people who are going to register themselves stand by your side.
Armed with my ID card, I head to attend the first seminar at the Debussy – huge auditorium where all the seminars to be held. On my way there, I bump into familiar faces – Joy from Zee is part of the serpentine queue, as are Pratap Bose and Anurag Gupta from Mudra. I gather that I am not the only client from India who will be at Cannes - ITC is well represented as is Levers (after all, they are being recognized as the client of the year).
I get my hands on a booklet that has the Global Power List 2010 – Campaign’s first ever list of people who “shape the worlds of advertising, media and marketing across the globe”. And as expected, India is well represented – Sam Balsara, Agnello Dias, Ragothaman Gowthaman, Vineet Jain, Prasoon Joshi, Senthil Kumar, Lalit Modi, Piyush Pandey, Aroon Poorie and Vikram Sakhuja. They rub shoulders with the likes of Steve Ballmer, James Cameron, Rupert Murdoch, David and Victoria Beckham, among others.
Day 1 seems to be dedicated to the power of the social media. And therefore you have Wunderman talking about the mobile mania – how the mobile phone is ready to leave the humble computer far behind. Tribal DDB goes on to talk about how the meek have inherited the world. Sapien Nitro partners their client Wall’s to convince us that ‘customers are from Mars, while brands are from Venus’. In the midst of these sessions, there was a very interesting seminar by Directory that reminds us of the power of the good ol’ direct mail. Some more familiar faces in the crowd – Madhukar Kamath, Colvyn Harris, Nandini Dias, Sonal Dabral, Sandeep Pathak, Sagar Mahabaleshwar and Bobby Pawar. I also bumped into Miles Young – and he brought back very fond memories of my tenure at Ogilvy. As the (then) regional head of the agency, he was the man who had given all of us a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging.
A long and tiring day. Only to end back at my hotel to learn that they have nothing on their menu to keep a vegetarian happy. Alas!
Now to make my list of what all I want to attend tomorrow…
Ajay Kakar is Chief Marketing Officer – Financial Services, Aditya Birla Group.