Do you do the Cannes Cannes?
By David Parkinson, co-founder, Brave & Heart
I went to Cannes Lions. Once.
It started well: flight into Nice, taxi to Cannes, take in the narrow streets with a sense of excitement in the air. The streets were thick with older dark-rimmed glasses in sailor tops mixed with younger preppy types wearing lanyards and backpacks proudly.
Then it all went downhill. Quickly.
Almost immediately agencies pounced on me with wild ideas they had been saving up. Tactics with a distinct lack of strategy behind them. The assumption that a glass of Rosé in a private free food and drink area would prise the brand wallets open.
I was then paraded around the social teams. More wallet prising ensued as I was wheeled in on a tight schedule behind other brand heads eager for a “selfie” with the famous thumbs up logo. All desperate to monetize and unable to articulate how or why. The good old days.
I was then party to the single most embarrassing technology demo in my life – bear in mind I spent a decade working on the coalface of the IT industry. What was to be a swan song of technology was little more than a clunky demo of various pieces of unconnected software and hardware that left me (still) shell-shocked that anyone would fall for this. We did have a video call from an LA band I had never heard of. Pre-recorded.
They were in bed.
There was a multitude of social and tech beach parties with freebies here and there – usually cheap sunglasses made to look like fake wood. Groups of socially awkward people on a beach watching football.
Some of the old 90’s giants had taken over top floors of most hotels. We did the rounds of mainly empty spaces of clearly lost or dying companies filled with bored US college students playing beer pong. Beer. Pong.
Finally, there were the famous tables at the Carlton. Reserved years in advance, Rosé flowing like water with much backslapping and congratulations between old friends (and enemies). On the street, people were drunkenly swapping cards or vying for access with the cry that they “knew someone inside”.
I was confused. And I have been to SXSW. Twice.
What was all this about? Why were we here? Where were the groundbreaking ads? Where were the maestros of creativity? Why were all the “disruptive” social brands flooding Cannes with billboards and traditional adverts?
Is Cannes a celebration of all that is creative? Is it a milk round for money between agencies and clients? Is it a massive holiday for the world’s creatives?
My final realization was that all of the above was true. To which degree depended if you were client, agency, creative or advertiser. It served no real purpose to progress any of them thought and apart from the stories, sun and yachts could all be achieved on home turf.
I left. Forever.