In the middle of June ad people gather in Cannes from all over the planet. They go to see ads from all over the world, posters, print, TV, and new media, all day every day of the week. They go to party all night every night of the week. They go to spend heavily from their expense accounts while networking. Either one of the three or all of the above depending on which shoes you're wearing. I was wearing party shoes when I landed in Cannes on the 20th of June.
It was Tuesday, so the festival had already kicked off and a steady crowd of adgrunts had already arrived. The only ones missing on Tuesday night were the young creatives from Denmark who boarded a plane for Cannes and ended up in Manchester that evening. Radar control strike was at fault. All flights passing London got redirected. The young creatives were extremely unhappy until they found the brewery and later they were just extremely drunk.
After packing every guy from my crew into their hotel rooms I suggested that we meet at the Martinez, the late-night hotel bar where everybody goes, and soon the security guys and creatives and Dj's and Vj's followed my lead. It was a quiet night, until my security guys got arrested for stealing the velvet rope. We managed to bail them out, but they were banned from the Martinez already on Tuesday.
Nine am, wednesday, the cleaning lady wakes us up rummaging through our room. We head for the beach and spend the day blowing up five thousand balloons, cutting two hundred masks, sound checking, loading drinks, rehearsing, and preparing for the Condor and Massive Music party. We dress a man up in uniform with golden speakers on his shoulders that play old marching music to announce the night's party by handing out flyers in the festival area. Their security throws him out. That doesn't stop him, he simply returns after half an hour with a new bunch of flyers and does it again.
No rest for the wicked.
At nine pm we are finished, the security guys are dressed as FBI men and the partygoers start arriving. The party's theme is politics, the guests get free cigars stating "read my lips, no more lungs" and money to buy drinks for which states "100% dirty money".
The MC's are dressed as political commentators.
The balloons are filled with "100% hot air".
A very small Marilyn Monroe takes the stage and slurs "happy birthday Mr president" before walking around the party with her giant poodles.
Things get more surreal as two sharks come up from the beach and "swim" into the dance floor, with press passes and cameras.
The highlight and end of the evening is when "the biggest force in American politics" enters the stage, a man dressed in a giant penis costume. He dances and then "comes" spraying shaving cream all over the audience.
Not once, but four times. A man in a Hugo Boss suit in incensed and complains to me about it, I bribe him with "100% dirty money".
All this and our security guys didn't get arrested once!
After the party all of us race to the Martinez, covered in balloons and shaving cream.
We stayed until dawn drinking on the street, as the sun rises we stumbled home for a poolparty and a barbeque at seven in the morning.
Thursday the cleaning lady rips the sheets off the bed, where I'm still sleeping, naked.
After a long string of french apologies we still throw her out saying she can clean tomorrow, sleep some more and then head for the beach.
In the early evening Dentsu throws an intimate sushi party at the Carlton.
We are there, hungry for ads and sake, and are greeted with open arms and drenched in both. Dentsu threw together an impressive collection of ads to show at this intimate presentation, and served fab sushi and Japanese candy called Kintaro. I was glued to the TV set applauding the surreal and funny work, other ad people weren't quite as polite as they saw this cocktail party as a trip to free sushi and loud networking. I stayed after the party talking to everybody and eating more candy. Perhaps I overstayed. The party officially ended at nine pm, at ten thirty when I finally left, the Dentsu crowd actually applauded.
(see Dentsu-sideA and Dentsu-sideB )
After the Dentsu cocktail I headed for the soundscape party, decided it sucked, and headed for another party and then another. Eventually ending up at the Martinez again and watched the sun come up as I sat on the street with other diehards - including new Japanese friends from the Dentsu party.
Friday morning, the cleaning lady actually goes away when we scream "go away!"
She's catching on.
This morning the shortlist is shown, the people who come for the ads can't be found until after four and the others are nursing their hangovers at various parties by creating new ones.
I was at the Rushes+Aardman animation BBQ floating in their pool all day a glass of rose floating on a tray beside me.
People called with tips about the winners and by five pm, everybody knew that "Whazzup" was grabbing the Grand Prix.
At night we head for the Swedish trade press annual midsummer party where vodka flows freely.
My very drunk colleague stumbled across the beach towards the DDB party where a bad-ass security guy complete with a nasty-looking rottweiler guarded so that no gatecrashers can pass.
For a moment we think he makes it across, but he returns, waving a crumpled up 200 franc bill saying: "That guard is taking his job waaay too seriously"
We go to the TBWA/Chiat Day party instead, and then party hop along the beach as security slacks off.
At 3.30 we start walking home and meet a famous adgrunt, Bil Bungay, who is draped in three giggling women, and holding several bottles of free champagne and fruit.
He beckons "Come to the Martinez man, we got champagne, c'mon...."
As we say no he tempts us with more: "We got star-fruit!".
Who could resist?
Sun rises before we know it.
Saturday. The cleaning lady doesn't even attempt to go near our room.
Saturday evening is the night of the winners.
The Cannes festival comes to its peak as adgrunts from all over the planet don their best frocks and head to the most expensive party in town.
I slip in after the awards ceremony, sample my way through fabulous free foods and even better desserts, watch the cirque du soleil performers do magic tricks and fire-eating acts, complain loudly with the others I meet about this party being a "real drag" and then wait for the fireworks.
The fireworks shoot off on the beach shortly after midnight, set to bizarre choices of music like "Mambo number five" and it feels like an anticlimax as most people are too tired to even care and most parties earlier in the week were better.
We bump into the star-fruit adgrunt Bil who says "Did I see you guys last night? I have a strange memory about fruit, you had fruit with you didn't you?" before he wanders off to his hotel and a much-needed vacation.
Naturally, a steady stream of people leave this party and head for the Martinez again, and there the crowd is loud, drunk, and buzzing with shouts of "Whazzup!?"
After getting into a few arguments about who won, who shouldn't have, and why not, I tossed myself into the swimming pool wearing my gala-dress, and promptly get banned from the Martinez until the next year. It's tradition. :)
Sunday, at this point I wish my party shoes were red glittery ones so I could click my heels together saying "there is no place like home".
Radar control strike keeps me from leaving Cannes, and though there are worse places to get stuck I am exhausted after this week and when I finally return to the office at home my tan has turned pale green.
A colleague says sarcastically: "You're so bloody lucky to get a paid vacation in Cannes each year" to which I can only respond by passing out on the keyboard.
But do come next year, won't you dahling? We'll do lunch! See you at the Martinez! Smooches darling!