Midnight on The Carlton Terrace

“Every year,” grizzled the Hemingway lookalike of a journalist, in between mouthfuls of rose, “someone f&*ks it up. Too much booze, say the wrong thing. Nothing happens immediately, they get a plane home, but in eight weeks they’re out of a job.”

And you can see why. The Cannes Lions festival is like a weeklong wedding — a lot of people you kind of know but haven’t seen for a little while, drinking endlessly in the sunshine. And like a wedding, whilst there’s always the odd casualty, most folk have a fantastic time, remembering why they got married in the first place.

I’ve never fallen out of love with advertising, but to come here to Cannes, for the first time, was, to quote John Lennon, “just like starting over.” The excitement, the energy, it's time distorted through a single point of focus, and the sense of endless possibility.

It all happens on a strip of land no more than a kilometer — in between hotels, with names like the Majestic, the Carlton and the Martinez, and the expensively sponsored beach clubs, villas and yachts, serious business is done. I figure I saw six months’ worth of people in four days. Money well spent.



There’s the usual tussle for tickets to the coolest parties, but it’s the work that matters. Simultaneously humbled, inspired and awe-struck by what I saw, it’s clear that the Lions are one enormous gauntlet, laid down annually by the industry, to the industry.

As our chairman made a point of telling us, there is not one Cannes, but two. There is the Cannes where you go, as we did, to meet, to do press, to drink it all in and to avoid being the one who, in the words of my journalist pal that night on the Carlton Terrace, f&*ks it up.

And then there is the Cannes where, quite simply, you win.

That’s why I’m so glad I came. With apologies to the '90s English rock band James: “If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor.”

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