Cannes is like a really big elevator. You know, one where you bump into lots of people you only sort of half know, and then you’re stuck, forced into small slightly awkward pleasantries to pass the time until the next mixer . Struggling for common ground after you run out of genius party openers like, “So what day did you get in?” and “How’s the jet lag?”. Pretty soon you’ll be talking about the weather.
But maybe you shouldn’t be surprised at the undercurrents of frigidity as you stand there in the sunshine with a glass of rose in hand. After all, it is a huge industry. Sometimes you can only appreciate how huge by actually being here (a trip down to the Gutter Bar at 2am usually does it). Really? All these people work in Advertising? Wow! So no matter your reputation back home chances, are out here you’ll experience a degree of ‘shrivelage’ in the presence of all these other “greats”.
And that’s where human instinct starts to kick in. We’re competitive by nature. That’s probably what makes us good at what we do anyway. But when placed in front of So-and-So from XYZ agency, you’re desperately trying to find small talk (Kids? No. Football? No. Been to Asia? No…etc) because you’re actually trying to avoid talking about the work – although that’s exactly what you’re thinking about. “Yeah, I saw your ads and you don’t have a chance” your brain is screaming out, but your tongue holds you back. as you crack another corny Cannes pun one-liner in the search for social acceptance. Everyone’s thinking it, but just not saying it. Perhaps that’s a good thing – a cold war instead of an open one.
It is a shame that what’s meant to be a celebration of creativity is being used as a war ground. Country against country, continent against continent, network against network, agency against agency. You end up being extra careful with what you say and where you tread, who you’re seen with and who you’re ignoring. I guess it’s inevitable, it is a competition after all. But it’s a shadow over some of the stellar seminars and speakers we’ve seen, and most of all distracts from the real reason we’re here – the work. Maybe we should all take a lesson from this year’s fabulous Press Grand Prix for Benneton. Let’s kiss and Unhate, people!