Je ne regrette rien. One week at the Cannes Advertising Festival.


11:00am. They’re giving away free Beroccas at the Palais in when you register for your pass. There’s a huge basket of them. The French girl giving them out says ‘they’re for a big week,’ so I make a big deal about grabbing a small handful. She laughs. (Note: Three days later, my room will look like the aftermath of a drugs raid as I tear it apart looking for just one more of them.)

11:04am. I’ve specially worn a nice linen shirt as I assume they’ll be taking my picture in a modern booth and, you know, laminating it onto my pass. Instead, the agency has sent them a ten-year-old photo of me wearing a black t-shirt that says ’Addicted.’ They hand the pass over and say I have to wear it for the whole week. I’m gutted. It’s the size of a small plate.

11:10am. I’m now carrying the official Cannes Lions goody bag. It’s full to the brim with fliers for South American production companies and various media specialists, a small bag full of sun cream and my official ‘XL’ Cannes Lions t-shirt. I actually asked for the ‘L’ but the guy said ‘tight fit’ and handed me the big one. Fuck him. I’m not going to wear it.

11:36am. I’ve noticed people with different coloured passes to me. I think there’s a tiered system based on how important they think you are. It’s like some sort of advertising Gattaca. I’m green, so I think I’m on the very bottom rung and ‘unclean.’ (Note: This proves to be true. My pass won’t get me into any of the cool lounges where they’re showing the football with nice coffee and WIFI. However, I can get into a free one where I spend a few hours over the week recharging my phone and watching a looped video about some sort of new timesheet system.)

12.04pm. Lunch. A burger with fries in an Irish pub. I think my Brazilian colleague Gustavo is thoroughly fucked off with this. He mutters something about us being in the South of France and not wanting to ‘come all this way to eat burgers with fries.’ He’s absolutely right of course but I was born in England and it’s sort of what we do when we go to France. We’re heathens.

1:10pm. If you need to buy an ridiculously expensive dress, a designer handbag or rent a Bentley, go for your life, you’re sorted in Cannes. However, if you need something like a travel plug you could be walking around ‘Centre Ville’ for some time. I finally find one in a music store. It better work. The man who runs the hotel doesn’t have any. Then again, he doesn’t offer a minibar, safe, laundry or room service so that’s not entirely a fucking surprise. My room consists of a bed, a table and a toilet. It’s what I imagine a French prisoner would get if he behaved himself.

6:00pm. The Carlton Terrace. There are two huge TVs showing the football and pleasant waiters taking your drink orders. It’s much nicer. That’s probably why all the veteran Cannes delegates are staying here. I order a round at the bar and stare at the receipt for what seems like an age. I give the barman a ‘what the fuck’ gesture and the barman responds with a ‘that’s what it costs’ shrug. I’m surprised the hotel’s not carved out of one single, gigantic diamond. They could afford it.

9:00pm. Three more hours of drinking before England vs. Italy. I forgot how much a pint actually contained. I’ve been indoctrinated by the Australian Schooner System so I’m not used to the ‘bucket of beer’ that is the pint. That’s possibly why Gustavo keeps slumping forward. I think he might be sleeping.

3:00am. England lost to Italy. This resulted in a very large Italian, man running around the pub we were in screaming loudly. He shouted ‘Italia! into my face whilst banging his fist on the table. I smiled and nodded enthusiastically so he’d think I was Italian too. He ran off to hassle someone else so I managed to slip out and walk back to the ‘hotel’ miserably.


8:00am. I think I’m hung-over but I’m not sure. I think it’ll be one of those ones that fools you into thinking you’ve got away with it but nails you at about eleven.

8:30am. I nearly stepped in a huge pile of dog poo at the top of the stairs leading to the hotel reception. The guy who owns the place doesn’t speak English so through sign language I manage to get him to go over and see it. He sighs deeply, mutters something, and scurries off. I think it’s his wife’s dog.

8:45 am. I’m drinking coffee in the hotel verandah as a huge pool of liquid slowly starts to make its way towards me. I immediately assume it’s the fucking dog again but apparently he just watered the ferns.

9:00am. The local launderette is closed. This is after I spent twenty odd minutes attempting to mime the days of the week and drawing clocks on a pad the day before. God, I wish I knew more French other than ‘Can I have a ticket to Paris’ and ‘you are beautiful.’ ‘What time do you open in the morning’ would have been a godsend. I’m sure there’s an app that’d do it but there’s no Wi-Fi.

9:30am. First seminar of the day. Apparently Twitter want us to realise that things can, like, go global if you just have a good idea. No shit. Someone brings out David Hasselhoff and get us all to use a hashtag. Call me old fashioned, but you could film David Hasselhoff making a sandwich and it’d go viral. As he walked off the stage I managed to grab a selfie with him. This caused a mini riot in the front rows – which I think he rather liked.

11:00am. Bang. There you go. Like clockwork – or a clockwork-powered sledgehammer in the brain. I’ve necked lots of multivitamins. That should help.

12:00pm. Sarah Jessica Parker’s on. She talked about Sex and the City, her own brand of shoes and her new show which features just an ordinary, everyday forty-something woman dealing with the loss of her TV talk show. I’m not sure what any of this has to do with Cannes, but she did use the word ‘social media’ a few times, so I guess that makes it relevant.

12:45pm. Why do they install plugs so fucking low that you can’t plug anything into them? And they’re those two prong French ones that need a huge adapter, which doesn’t plug in because it scrapes the floor.

1:00pm. Just tried Google Glass. It’s actually amazing, other than the fact that I think you need to nod your head up and down to move the cursor. I can imagine that’d look rather odd on the bus.

1:10pm. Lunch. What’s the deal with Truffle? I bought some Truffle infused Brie the other day in Sydney, which was, by far, the most wanky, middle-aged thing I’d ever done. Over here your pasta’s covered in the stuff. And it’s cheaper. In France. Go figure.

2:00pm. The head of Sapient Nitro worldwide has decided that whilst interviewing Spike Jonze, he’ll ask questions that are literally five minutes long.. From the front row we can see that Spike is getting a little annoyed. At one point Spike refused to answer a particularly long question and wants to know if the audience have got one. After two great questions Mr. Nitro had enough, takes back control and goes on about meeting James Cameron.

2:45pm. I walk into the hotel lounge with my laptop and the owner and his wife get up and shoo me out. I think it’s their living room during the day. At least the dog’s are in there. There are two of them. Two.

4:00pm. It’s raining, so hundreds of street vendors roam the streets with cheap umbrellas. They’re everywhere. When the rain stops they still try to sell them before getting the Fedora hats out. I’m not sure if the 12,000 twenty-something delegates would be into Fedoras, but points for trying.

4:45pm. Just passed a gigantic peeling Microsoft sticker on a booth. People have been ripping into Microsoft all week. In a seminar someone showed a photo of Bill Gates holding something that looked like a cereal box with a screen upon which he’d scrawled ‘tablet computers are cool!’ Next to it was a photo of Steve Jobs holding an iPad. It pretty well summed up the last eight years I think.

5:00pm. Cannes delegates. Don’t use those flashy modern automatic toilets. Just don’t. I went in and filled the bowl with amazingly luminous wee (that’d be the multivitamins kicking in) and the fucker wouldn’t flush. I pressed all the buttons and nothing happened. After a moment of panic I pressed the big green button to open the door and there was a beautiful Brazilian girl waiting to go in. I muttered something about it not working and literally ran off down the Croisette.

6:30pm. Campaign Brief welcome drinks at the Grand Hotel. As I walked up the path I took a salmon and cheese canapé from a smartly dressed waiter. When I mentioned Campaign Brief he realised I was at the wrong party and tried to take it back off me. I stuffed it into my mouth and ran off towards John Mescall who’d just won another Lion. Getting a Lion was the sole topic of conversation for one of the guests I spoke to. Who won a Lion, how many Lions they got and how many Lions he was expecting to win. If I had a Lion I would have hit him with it, only I don’t have a fucking Lion. I managed to get a couple of words with the legendary Matt Eastwood before he was carried away by an admiring mob.

10.28pm. I just ate a kebab. A fucking kebab. In Cannes. There’s literally nothing to eat post eleven here if you can’t be bothered doing the posh restaurant thing. The guy said he’d add ‘frites’ for 2 Euros. I nodded as it sounded like a good deal and he rolled a whole pile of chips INTO THE KEBAB. I’ve never seen this and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

11:00pm. I’m in bed. There’s a funny smell and I’m not sure what it is. It’s either the dodgy aircon or the dog. I’ll let you know.


9:00am. There’s been a bit of an international incident between me and the guy who owns the launderette. He wanted to charge me 363 Euros for spending two days ironing four shirts. I worked out that this was close to 180 dollars. I got angry and started shouting ‘expensive’ in a French accent as I think they use the same word. It turns out that in France they stick an E at the end of all the prices, so the actual cost was 36E. I thought it was Cyrillic or something. I got the shirts back after he made me wait twenty minutes as some sort of punishment.

9:30am. I saw a delegate having coffee with a Lion on his table. Seriously. I presume he’s either been out all night or he’s trying to get laid.

9:45am. Old ladies queuing outside Prada. Seriously. Queuing.

10:00am. The French like to package things up in the chemists so you can’t buy one toothbrush; you have to buy about six. The girl at the counter an I shared a ‘raised eye’ moment as she scanned a huge shrink-wrapped collection of multicoloured condom boxes for the embarrassed guy in front of me. He wasn’t good looking or anything and points for being safe and all that – but there were about eighty in there. Maybe there’s some sort of massive sex party going on. I wouldn’t know. I only have one wristband.

10:05am. ‘The Power Of Dreams.’ Repeat this phrase a few times; add words like disruption, content and social and you’ve got yourself a Cannes seminar. Throw in a celebrity and you’ll have them queuing down the Croisette. Kanye and Kim are in town apparently. There’s a gigantic yacht the size of the Queen Mary moored off the beach. Helicopters keep landing on it so we all assumed it was theirs. I now understand it belongs to The Daily Mail. I should buy a fucking long lens and try and snap them topless on the bow. Fuck it. That’s what they do.

11:00am. I’m writing some scripts for Sydney at Google Beach. I managed to slip past the huge Irish security guard and run upstairs to a very Googly room filled with multicoloured cushions and Lego. A couple of cool hipsters were making music on an elaborate music app. They had more wristbands than me. I have two now. But one of them’s paper and you get at the front entrance. It has Google’s Wi-Fi password on it. I might keep it on. Everyone seems to collect them like those New Orleans Mardi Gras beads.

11:30am. I’m on a boat with Paul Nagy, absolutely one of the nicest guys in advertising. We’re off to ‘Google Beach’ where a whole pile of people will be talking about YouTube.

12:10pm. David Droga’s here. I shook his hand and he stood up and smiled as if he recognised me. This was very kind of him, as I think the last time we spoke was in 1994.

5:30pm. I saw Jared Leto walking outside the venue so I pretended to slip off to the toilet so I could get a selfie with him. I’ve no idea why I’m collecting these but they’re fun. I’ve sort of quickly rehearsed what I was going to say to one of the coolest men on the planet to get the shot, and it was ‘excuse me Jared, do you mind me being a wanker and getting a shot with you?’ When I approached the Oscar-winning Jesus lookalike I got a bit star struck and fucked it up, so what he would have seen was a large and obviously nervous man walking over to him saying ‘Excuse me, I’m a wanker’ and sticking a phone in his face. He gave me a big thumbs-up in the shot. Bless him. I think he might have been scared.

6:00pm. Back on the boat with Paul Nagy. The Google thing was amazing and they gave us a goody bag at the end with cool stuff in it. This is definitely their year at Cannes. They’ve just owned it. Facebook and Twitter are nowhere to be seen and all the Microsoft stickers are peeling off.

6:14pm. We’ve just passed Roman Abramovich’s yacht. I say yacht. It’s not a yacht. It’s the size of a destroyer. Apparently it’s got a missile system built in and snipers. It was the largest privately owned vessel until a few months ago when a cheeky Malaysian had one built a few metres longer to piss him off. I’m not sure if pissing off a Russian with his own personal missile system is a good idea. Maybe they’ll have a sea battle.

1:00am. The Carlton Terrace. Remember the Big Day Out when a headline band’s on? Imagine being in the middle of that crowd only it’s not Arcade Fire you’re facing, it’s a bar.

2:30am. I’m at a music party on the beach. It’s apparently quite a famous one. I managed to get an invite from my sister who seems to have invites for everything. The music’s awful and the beer’s run out so we’re all drinking wine from beakers. I’ll pay for this tomorrow.


9:00am. Every single day I see the same two miserable reps for some small digital company standing outside the Carlton Hotel. They’ve got a coffee machine and everything. It’s all free because they ‘brew great ideas’ or something. I’m yet to see anyone with one of their coffees. Fuck it, why would you want a free one when you can pay fifteen Euros for one on the Carlton terrace? I might talk to them tomorrow. They look sad.

9:15am. Nearly got run over by a black supercar. I’ve no idea what it is but I stole one in GTA5. The asshole had the nerve to beep me as I walked across one of the million pedestrian crossings they have here. I stopped in the middle of the road to stare him out but his windows were tinted so I don’t know if he stared back. I’ve seen the same car do the same circuit on numerous occasions. I think he’s trying to pick up women. The women obviously aren’t biting as everyone’s got a fucking supercar here. It’s probably rented.

9:26am. I’m normally fighting a massive hangover in a seminar at 9:30, but I’ve forgotten my phone so I’m back at the hotel. My room has this little courtyard thing outside which I use to make phone calls as it gets better reception. I do this barefoot normally. I won’t be doing this ever again as I’ve just seen the owner’s daughter nonchalantly watching her dogs urinate down here. It’s a fucking dog toilet. I thought those puddles were from the aircon or something.

9:48am. Everyone’s posting pictures of these great parties they’ve been to. I’ve been to one and the DJ was shit. I actually ran onto the dance floor as he dropped the opening to ‘Insomnia’ by Faithless. After about ten seconds he mixed in some euro crap and everyone went nuts. Here’s a tip. If you need to wee, do it before you go out. The queues for the toilets are fucking insane. I considered walking into the sea and just going out there but for some reason they’d stuck tough looking security guards along the water’s edge to stop us doing it.

10:20am. I need Wi-Fi, so I tried to blag my way into the ‘Havas Café.’ Lots of cool types are lounging on sofas and drinking coffee in what looks like a business class lounge. They refuse to let me in even after I namedrop every single person I know at Havas, and that includes Steve Coll who doesn’t even work there anymore. I walk off to the Palais where at least you get a good connection but no comfy sofas. Just people talking about content.

1:00pm. Seminars. The agency model is changing. Do more digital. Tell stories. Be brave. Dream more. Technology will change everything. Content is king. Thank you, you’ve been a great audience.

8:00pm. England vs. Uruguay. I think I have some very distant German heritage so I’m supporting them now. At least they’ll get out of their fucking group.

11:20pm. The last days of Rome – or the Carlton Terrace at night. Ted Royer’s here. I think we stole a magnum of wine. I don’t know how we did it, or why, but we drank it all and that’s when my memories start to get hazy.

11:48pm. Someone’s broken the sink in the men’s toilets. I have absolutely no idea how they did it. There’s just a big hole where it used to be. Why someone would want to, I don’t know, jump up and down in a sink is beyond me but they did. There are three really pissed off girls mopping up what was presumably a fountain of water and muttering in French. There’s also a huge queue of desperate men waiting to use the toilets but won’t because the three pissed off girls aren’t leaving. I go anyway. I have no shame.

12:10am. I’ve been told me that if you tell the Carlton bar staff you’ve won a Lion you get free drinks. To be absolutely honest, someone should tell the bar staff not to leave bottles of Rose in ice buckets all over the place because people are just grabbing them.

12:25am. I’ve just spent about twenty minutes talking to the global head of Procter and Gamble. I did this big sell on how fucking awesome our agency is and how we’ve made all these great hires and stuff. I think at the time my intention was for her to just, I don’t know, give us the entire business for Australia and I’d return home a hero. At one point she stopped me falling over. That would be the stolen magnum kicking in. Anyway. She was lovely – even if she was the Global Head of Procter and Gamble for fucking Leo Burnett. She wasn’t even a client. I told her how great Burnett’s were in Australia, said goodbye and stumbled off into a table.

12:45am. Everyone’s either caught a cold at exactly the same time or I’ve just realised why the fucking toilet lines are so long.


8:20am. I have to wear the same shorts again. I’ve been wearing them on and off for about three days. This is mainly due to the fact that I can’t return to the dry cleaners – the owner made this quite clear after our ‘incident’ a few days ago.

9:10am. People like to beep their horns when they see pretty girls. I’ve seen whole queues of cars all frantically beeping when a sexy girl walks down the Croisette. I’m not sure what they expect them to do. Jump in? Disrobe?

11:00am. Having a salad with my sister who’s still suffering the after effects of eating an undercooked sausage. The salad is approximately the size of my head. I think the woman who wrote ‘Why French Women Don’t Get Fat’ should order a starter in Cannes. They’re fucking huge.

11:45am. It’s ‘Innovation day’ in Cannes, and I’ve bagged an early seat. Well, I stole it. People leave their stuff on chairs to reserve them and fuck off for hours. We’ve all started just handing the stuff back to them when they come back and refuse to get up. The guy who invented the Dollar Shave Club is on. I was taking copious notes and underline the quote ‘Great things happen when your ass smells great’ as I think it’s really funny. I’m going to try and use it in conversation later on.

12:00am. Every single seminar starts off with a well made film that ALWAYS features people taking pictures of something with smart phones and smiling with wonder. This one’s from a viral company that are so damn good they enable us to ‘reach for the stars.’ It’s extremely cheesy, but a guy runs onto the stage and explains it means that they’re going to send one of us into space. There’s a ripple of excitement until the guy says it’s in eight months and based on hits. We thought it would be today. He then does a magic trick with a levitating tissue and just fucks off without going into any details about the space thing.

4:00pm. Bono and Sir Jonathan Ives are talking about the RED charity and want to know if anyone’s got a great idea to help it make more money. Baring in mind that this gigantic auditorium is filled with some of the greatest creative firepower on the planet, the first audience suggestion to ‘get people to use direct debits’ seems a little underwhelming, but Bono thinks it’s a great idea. He seems like a nice guy. I always thought he was a bit of a knob but that’s because I’ve never seen him just having a chat. Jonny Ives doesn’t say much, but when he does it’s a bit odd as I’ve only ever seen him talking with a white background with a new phone in his hands.

6:00pm. Getting ready for the final night. It’s a big one apparently so, to The Gutter, figuratively or literally, I’ll let you know which way it went in the morning.


11:00am. I got into the hotel about three hours ago. The owner took one look at me, clapped his hands and said ‘coffee!’ That single word made up for all the Dog poo and wee. Seriously.

6:00pm. Dubai Airport is the size of a small country and I can’t seem to work out where my gate is so I tail the Aussie delegates and enter a lift the size of a tennis court. I’m literally just following people in pained silence because they seem to know where we all need to go. I follow one of them into the entrance of a beautiful lounge. When I show my boarding pass to the elegant Emirates lady she shakes her head sadly. I look around and see a beautiful waterfall and people getting massages. It’s the First Class lounge. There’s an awkward moment because all three of us know there’s no way I’m getting in. The famous Aussie CD asks the lady if I can be his guest (which was very nice of him) but we all know that’s just not going to happen. I walk off sadly dragging my bag. Behind me I hear the glass doors closing with a soft whoosh.

6:24pm. In my infinitely inferior lounge I’ve discovered a fridge full of free Ben and Jerry’s mini tubs. I’m on my third. Before I unwrap each one I hold it against the back of my neck as it feels really nice and makes the pain go away for a few seconds. There’s a woman sitting opposite who’s looking at me with what I can only presume is pity or disgust. I can’t tell. She’s wearing a burka.

8:00pm. Final leg. A few of the Aussie delegation are on the same flight. One of them offers me a Berocca which I politely refuse as I don’t want to look like I’m still in a state (I am.) On reflection I should have taken it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Cannes is never, ever refuse a free Berocca. You never know when you’ll need it.

Au revoir.

This article originally appeared in Campaign Brief and the CB Blog.

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