I spent my first four days in Cannes utterly convinced that I was immensely disliked by my fellow Cyber jurors. I’d enter the jury room every morning to hear stories of bonding over wonderful meals, hearty laughter and lifelong friendships being forged. At night, I’d sit alone, sadly trying to think of the exact moment I somehow alienated eighteen representatives of the world advertising community. A few days later I found out that they were all communicating on fucking WhatsApp. As I didn’t have WhatsApp, or indeed remember being told to download the thing, as they gallivanted around town at night going to fabulous restaurants and bars I was playing Zelda. If it’s any consolation, I’m quite far in now and have a pretty decent sword that glows blue. So, you know, fuck it.
As my fellow diarists have detailed the complicated judging process in forensic detail I won’t bore you with another one. But if you’re entering Cyber next year, here are a couple of quick tips. 1. Don’t send in work that’s not cyber at its very centre (or, quite frankly, shit.) 2. We know everyone ‘massages’ their engagement figures, but for god’s sake make it believable. To explain the vast numbers we saw, most of the developed world must have decided to stop working, eating, sleeping and making babies, choosing instead to watch and share online content. I know I didn’t. In the last few months I reckon I engaged with about three pieces in Australia. The rest of it was fucking awful.
There’s been a big push for diversity this year. The juries are split equally (as they always should be), and we’re all on the lookout for work that objectifies either gender. To be absolutely honest, this has been one of the fairest, fun and most talented juries I’ve ever had the pleasure to be on. I’m also prepared to say on record that the female jurors kicked the living crap out of us with their lucid and perfectly constructed arguments. Colleen DeCourcy, our boss, is an absolutely remarkable woman and I found myself endlessly writing down practically everything she said so I could parrot it in meetings back home and sound great.
It’s hot as hell in Cannes this year so I packed shorts. After wearing them just once, a delegate pointed to my ridiculously white legs and said I should go to the Shots party so I could become part of the ‘light show.’ I smiled politely, deciding not to tell her that she was dragging a long line of toilet paper from one of her shoes. That’s Karma for you.
The Shots party is one of the high points of the Cannes week and everyone tries to get in. We watched a completely naked couple with all of their clothes balanced on their heads attempt to get in via the sea. The crowd cheered them on until they were pounced on by security. Everyone booed until ‘Blurred Lines’ suddenly came on and everyone ran onto the dance floor to get nasty. I couldn’t even get a canape so I left early. Most of the Cannes parties are all relatively similar. Thousands of gyrating ad folk, enormous queues for both beer and the toilets, loud Euro pop and the same line of tough looking security guards making sure nobody wades out into the sea to have a wee (or, indeed, attempt a sea born gatecrash.) But that’s unless you get mysteriously invited to one of the secret ones. Parties held in huge chateaus miles out of town with open grounds and serious money thrown at them. I managed to blag an invite to one of them. Ed Sheeran played for about four hundred people followed by a long set by FatBoy Slim. I reminded FatBoy that his Dad is married to one of my oldest mate’s Mum so he dragged me onto the stage for a selfie behind the decks. If it wasn’t for the photo I’d still think it was a jetlag influenced hallucination.
I’ve changed hotels. I was in an expensive, sexy one full of famous people and observant waiters until the second the judging finished then it becomes an agency cost, which means I was whisked off to a place with considerably less stars. The shower head broke the minute I touched it but it’s closer to the Palais, so at least I can walk there without looking like I’ve just walked out of the sea. (It’s really THAT hot.) As an added bonus, it doesn’t have a balcony, so I’m in no danger of getting locked out there. My horrifying and deeply embarrassing mistake is now one of the running jokes of the festival by the way. Everybody seems to have heard about it.
Of course, the elite are staying in the Carlton. Or, as it’s now been garishly rebranded ‘SPOTIFY.’ Next door to the Carlton hotel is a casino. Its placement is ironic as you’re far more likely to lose your money on the terrace. 9 Euros for a small bottle of Evian? 24 Euros for a Vodka Soda? That’s insane. It makes me wonder why they completely covered the hotel with Spotify branding. It’s not like they need the fucking money. (Oh, and on that, if Cannes is supposed to be celebrating creativity, why are all the industry posters shit? They all use crappy puns or say things like ‘turbocharge your business today!’ Snapchat have gone one further and have installed a gigantic yellow Ferris wheel in front of the Palais. There were very few people riding in there when I walked past, presumably as the windows don’t open, it’d be fiercely hot and feeling just like a rotary chicken isn’t something people want to film for ten seconds and share on social.
On the other side of the Carlton and just up the road is the infamous Gutter Bar. Obi Wan Kenobi once described Mos Eisley Spaceport as a ‘wretched hive of scum and villainy.’ He could have been describing the Gutter, which now has a huge fence around the perimeter and heavily armed police watching from across the road. Tired staff pour endless rounds of expensive beer into plastic cups for a seething mass of braying testosterone. The one time I tried to make my way through the place I saw an elderly couple with their dog walking past. They stopped and sadly watched as a large pool of (presumably) beer slowly ran down the pavement and directly across their path. Their little dog scampered through it leaving little beery footprints up the road. They must fucking hate this. Once a year they’re invaded by thousands of expensive shirts pouring into parties, trying to get laid and falling over. It probably explains why the French who live here absolutely ignore zebra crossings. I’ve been nearly killed twice as they literally just accelerate through. (They also park where the hell they want. It’s amazing. I got a $250 fine for dropping my kids off a month ago. Some dude parked his motorcycle ACROSS THE MAIN ROAD and nobody batted an eyelid. They just beeped a bit and went around him.)
So, is Cannes worth doing? Admittedly, it means nursing an almost constant hangover but you leave with much more than when you start. You chat to amazing people who’ve done amazing things. You see work from every corner of the planet. You understand WHY things win and why things don’t. It’s like a reboot for your advertising brain. More importantly, if you’re lucky enough to judge, you’ll leave with friends for life. Incredible, creative individuals like Colleen DeCourcy, Benjamin Dessagne, Brett Colliver, Eric Weisberg, Gabriel Vazquez, Jordan Doucette, Juan Garcia-Escudero, Katrien Bottez, Lauren Connolly, Lisa De Bonis, Magnus Ivansson, Maja Folgero, Nathalie Peters, Niklas Lindstrom, Pablo Tajer, Pat Law, Ritu Sharda, Sergio Gordilho, Sotaro Yasumochi and Timm Weber. Guys, it was an absolute pleasure.