Or was it just a dream? I'm not sure. My passport tells me I did. As, I'm sure, will my roaming bill in a few weeks. But in many ways, being in Cannes for 21 hours almost feels like I wasn't there at all. I'm starting to type this Friday afternoon on my Emirates flight to Dubai, as we taxi along the tarmac at Nice airport (they're going to ask me to turn off my iPad any moment now) though I'll probably do the bulk of it in Dubai or when I get home.
Why just 21 hours? I'll tell you in a bit but first let me give you a quick account of what I squeezed into my time on French soil.
It's a beautiful, sunny Thursday afternoon as I walk out of the terminal at Nice airport to be greeted by my driver (and car). I love you, Emirates! Thirty minutes later I'm at my hotel. Turns out the Palais Stéphanie has become the JW Marriott though there's still a big "Palais Stéphanie" sign on one side of building. I suspect the Marriott name is to the hotel what "Mumbai" is to Bombay. Not sure how many people will actually use the official moniker. One hour to go before my first meeting at five. Shower, change, phone time with home and office. It's a pain in the ass that two gigantic bids need to be turned in Friday. Not surprisingly, most of the cast of characters, from director to agency, are all at Cannes too. But that won't make it any easier given everyone's priorities when here. So we'll do our very best but let's see what happens.
In three hours I manage six meetings between the Carlton Hotel and La Plage Courage, which is just a stone's throw away. Mostly other producers from various markets. Then I head to the other side of town, beyond the Palais, where I've been invited to dinner by the Joint Chairmen of the APA (Advertising Producers Association of the UK), John Hackney and Lewis More O’Ferrall. Around 12 people in all. Cozy affair. My scallops and steak are divine. Everyone else raves about their choices too. Great food, good wine, lovely company. An evening well spent. Now I have a new Cannes restaurant reco: Gaston Gastounette. I excuse myself before desert arrives because I'm late for the shots party. Given that Bang Bang are sponsoring the party again this year, Kirk and I are expected to have been there for drinks half an hour before anyone else arrives. I'm hoping Kirk’s done that bit because I’m almost an hour late.
Anyway, great night. Rocking party and all that. There's a pretty solid turnout from the Indian contingent although the fact that Ogilvy and Grey are throwing parties on the same night accounts for some of their Indian agency folk not showing up at all. I'm not sure how many there are at the party (didn't manage to connect with the shots team before leaving) but if I were to hazard a guess, I'd say around 1800, like last year. As a good sponsor, I'd usually stay till the very end but given how little time I have on my hands, I ditch the party as it draws closer to 2am, which is when the beach parties are supposed to close anyway and head east along the Croisette. BTW, the Croisette is lined with this interesting modern art series of various national flags in the shape of wrapped sweets. Not sure if it’s a Lions thing or more permanent than that.
The rest of the night pans out across the Carlton and Gutter Bar. Conversation, beer and Croque Monsieur or all three of the above are shared with Sonal Dabral & wife, Beverley, Satbir Singh, Ajay Gahlaut, Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Hozefa Alibhai and Sushant Panda. There were others but I can’t remember.
I entered my room at a few minutes past three and the next thing I know, it’s 8:45 am. Shit, I’m late! Unfortunately, I have to cancel the Facetime video call I’ve scheduled with Tara and the boys. I’ll be home in less than 24 hours, so I don’t feel so bad. Fifteen minutes later, I’m rushing to the Carlton, where I’m meeting Stephen Mead and Holly Hartley from Short Films. Stephen’s the man responsible for that spectacular Lux spot we did with Ash and Abhishek a couple of years ago and Holly’s his Super-Producer. Short Films and Bang Bang have a co-production agreement and we’re in the middle of a massive bid. If we want to have a fighting chance, the cost really needs to come down. An efficient 45 minutes yields a good breakfast AND a lower cost. Karishma, the Bang Bang producer on the job, is on the phone with us for most of that time.
Back to the Palais Stéphanie for three more meetings, two of which I can’t talk about. The last one is with the Unusuals team. Check http://unusuals.net. It’s going to have quite an impact on the global commercials production industry in the years to come.
By 1:30pm, I’m back on my way to Nice Airport in the courtesy vehicle. Thank you again, Emirates! When I board a couple of hours later, I find the cabin manned by the same crew that brought me to Nice. They’re as surprised to see me as I am to see them. I guess that’s what happens when you go somewhere for 21 hours.
So coming back to why I was only there for 21 hours….As some of you might know, our second son, Kai, arrived less than two weeks ago. And it's his brother, Zen's second birthday this Sunday. I could’ve just been a good dad and husband and stayed home this year. But being sponsors of what’s regarded as one of the most happening parties in Cannes on an annual basis, I had to be there. You can't really throw a party and not be there yourself, now can you?
So yes, I’ve managed to do it all- baby, birthday, party and all. It is really possible to have your cake and eat it too. But be careful you don't get a case of indigestion. I’m so tired I could sleep till Monday.