1. As a Creative client.
It was a few years ago now and it was my first visit to Cannes, and I swore I would never do it that way again. I had always been the senior guy who wasn’t quite senior enough to go but was senior enough to hold the fort while the bosses frolicked on the croisette.
So, yes when the invitation came – I accepted it gladly. This was my turn.
It was lovely and generous of my hosts but exhausting. 15 odd years ago production companies rented villas miles from the actual town (maybe they still do) and had potential creative clients come to stay. I never went near any Palais de Festival, in fact I am not sure I knew or cared where it was. There were a few people milling about with lanyards but I didn’t pay much attention.
It was a succession of production company parties and thumping music all night long as I tried to get some sleep. Even 15 years ago I was too middle aged and married with kids to really feel comfortable, especially as my fellow house mates won the Grand Prix that year. So they were intent on celebrating, as you might imagine.
Me? I had to get back to a school parents summer ball on the Saturday night and I arrived back a quivering, hungover imbecile after having nearly missed the only flight home that would get me back in time.
2. As a Delegate.
It was ten years later that I came to Lions health. A bit of a trade up, as we were able to get a room at the Carlton. This was when adland didn’t arrive till the Sunday and we had it all to ourselves.
Over the last few years since it’s been going for us pharmatypes, I’ve experienced the true value of Cannes, the talks and the awards and won some nice accolades (although no Grand Prix as yet) myself.
I’ve sat in the auditorium as the big winners win and held my breadth for our campaign to be read out.
I’ve stood on the stage after winning Healthcare Network of the year.
I still arrive back home a beaten man, after too many late nights at the gutter bar, but that is compensated by feeling inspired by the new wave of creativity sweeping the sector.
3. As a judge.
Finally, I get it.
Now, from inside the machine it makes sense. All the griping about the judges decisions, all the frustrations become clear when you turn gamekeeper.
You see the foolishness of so many agencies who don’t listen to the advice and greedily enter too many categories hoping something might stick or envisioning a truck load of Lions as a result.
You see the quality entries who pick and choose their categories.
Yes, sometimes you feel like scooping your own eyeballs out with a screwdriver if you have to sit through that case history again.
But then there’s the thrill when something pops up that is brilliant.
You are able to pick up the tiny ideas that are beautifully done and shepherd them towards an accolade.
And ultimately you get to talk about great ideas with world class talent.
This year, although it’s early days, the division between pharma and health and wellness categories has made a big difference to the time spent in the jury room. Hopefully this will be the first year that reflects the kind of work ‘we actually do’ every day.
That’s if you do brilliant work every day.
The gutter bar may still beckon, but this is so far my favourite way to do Cannes.
There is of course a fourth way to do Cannes and that’s as a holiday maker, which I did last summer. We were staying in the hills above Nice and we drove down just for a visit.
The place was quiet, clean and the gutter bar had returned from the hottest property in town to a normal cafe on a street corner just trying to please its customers.
Just as we all do for the other 51 weeks of the year.