Ok, so the headline could be way better, but the experience can’t by much. For those of you who have never been before – and for those of you who have been here so many times that the Cote d’Azur has lost some of its blue – here’s what a first-timer feels at the Palais Des Festivals.
What you feel when you arrive, is lost. No, the word is overwhelmed. To begin with, there are just so many, way too many people. To get your Delegate pass requires you to stand in a line for an hour and a half inside a room where the queue snakes and feels like Immigration all over again.
And then, the well-mannered French people don’t speak much English. And perhaps the only thing they dislike more is your assumption that they do. Which is why it is critical to learn a few basic French phrases, none more door-unlocking than “Vous Parlez Anglais?”To not ask first if a local speaks the Queen’s tongue is like looking a leaky diaper from up close. It stinks. And you can make out by their face that it stinks badly.
But if you do these small courtesies, they will break into a smile that will make your innards grin back. Because politeness will take you places, though I’m not sure it’ll help you woo the women in a way most men seem to want.
For the second impression is that of the bare display of beauty all around. Every third woman is gorgeous, and given that her office has paid for her to be here – she’s probably brilliant as well. So Cannes for a first–timer is also about seeing men try clumsy moves to impress women. High-ranking people with low alcohol tolerance and whiskey-goggled morals trying to be smooth, is another constant sight here. Perhaps they succeed sometimes, but they never fail to amuse.
And then there’s the booze. If the evening parties thrown by your company/client/media agency wasn’t enough, there’s enough free beer at the Connect Bar for you to clink glasses with your inner alcoholic.
But above all – and gladly and gratefully above all – Cannes is first about the work. The pieces on display are stunning, and most of them lose. The bronzes and silvers hardly get a fleeting mention, so fleeting that you can’t photograph your agency’s name on screen when it shows up. So, fleeting that you have to check with your neighbour if you really won. Only Gold Lions get called up, and only their work is showcased.
And then, there are seminars where the best in the business – and often from outside our business – share their learning. It’s like distilled intelligence being spoon-fed to a wide-eyed infant. To see Saatchi and Saatchi showcase 25 new film directors, to see RG/A talk about start-up accelerators, to see Marilyn Manson speak on the consequences of pursuing a brand personality and to see Monica Lewinsky bare herself on what it means to be the first victim of cyber-bullying is mind-bending, spirit-expanding stuff.
It’s stuff that makes you understand what Cannes is really all about. It’s business disguised as pleasure and for anyone with a creative bone (and not just a card) – it’s breathtaking and beautiful.
Breathtaking and beautiful because it makes you hungry again.
Hungry to go one up next year because the sound of gold is like that of a thousand frenzied claps, and because that saying about all that glitters isn’t gold is a loser’s rant.
Hungry because it reminds you why you joined this damn industry in the first place, before EMIs and beyond designations and above all else.
Hungry for hunger’s sake.
Hungry till you want to make sweet love to the craft like it was the first time.
So till next year, thank you, Cannes. Or like you’d prefer it, merci.
The author is the executive creative director at Grey Bangalore