I don't mean the movie thing. I mean the Lions.
The Lions are about Creative Directors, clients, agency execs and people that matter all in one place to review, celebrate and learn from each others work.
However, there are other creatures of the Croisette that can shift focus from the real reason for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Much like the mutated SXSW, Cannes is a bug light for far fouler beasts than originally intended. It's a bacchanalia for braggart, hangers on and expense account exploitationist that weighs down like a Sloth costume party profaning the very Earth.
You need to know what to look out for just to amuse yourself by watching the wildlife. Which will help you discover the real Lions.
I've been there, as have we all, year in and out and not just in trade shows but in the less rewarding aspects of our working lives. These animals are a reason that so many people from dead hero stand up comedians to 'Right On' relatives disrespect, misunderstand or straight out spit at our career choices. I'm sick to death of all that guff, as are you.
Thus, here are the CosPlay make you pay Sloths that define and defile the ShenaniCannes:
A Geezer as flash as the chrome on his boss's boss's mistresses car and his own over polished Aviators. Early 30s. Gym toned everywhere and boy he shows it. What a golden time. Deeply embedded in a 90s brand about to be disintermediated and disintegrated faster than a marshmallow in a storm drain. Has "Europe" in his title but can't name the capital of Belgium or Poland. Never misses a chance to tell everyone about that latest knees-up where his total sexy brilliance might, for once, be clear to all. Weeks in advance, he's been oversharing about his hotel, his hair, his inevitable success on the dance floor, with C-level whomevers and in the bedroom. Truth be told, he's the pretty boy with a clipboard taking day drunk notes on who is attending the parties he's not invited to and the presentations he could add less value to than than a fart in a wind tunnel. Rocking a Madonna Mic, as if that was even possible. Sad, sad, sad.
The Bollinger Brainiac
He's way, way smarter than you. You stupid little marketing person. You suck. Hard. And need to pay him, tax free on his part of course, to find out why. Your agency is ready for the knacker's yard and smells of stupid. Your brand and business strategy are bullshit in a 'market' that does not even exist for eco enthused Millennials. And more, or less. Much less. Yet the Brainiac has superpowers far beyond those of the title of Enterprise Strategy Consultant he's granted himself like chocolate coin medals on a cartoon dictator. The more fermented grape juice he throws down his top hatch, the greater the strategic perspective. What magic. It is as if The Hulk had half eaten a Best of TED Talks 2009, a WIRED article on how pop neuroscience can tickle up Facebook Likes before privacy paranoia kills it all and a couple of Davos agendas before ripping off a Saville Row suit to rant and preen. Whilst grabbing for more than his share of the grog, sticking his tongue in your ear and his Signet Ringed hand in your pocket. With plenty of Share Options in himself and a colossal pair of crystal balls ready to tell any brand or agency's future, which of course calls on his services to be bright, he's already won the game of life. Clink clink. Cheers. You lose. Loser.
Bunny Bunting is almost more impressive than Cap'n Clipboard. Global Head of whatever is named on her well embossed business card. Every time she answers her designer cased phone she announces who is on the other end. As obtuse in an elite cosmopolitan context as a squawking chain pub barmaid at a funeral, Bunny is the type to ask for a side order of bacon at a posh eatery and is incapable of using chopsticks as anything more than a hair accessory. She doesn't broadcast her tangential presence as fast or foolish as her Clipboard compatriot, but if you are even a 4th Connection to her LinkedIn emissions you'll be sure to feel her presence. She waits until the last minute like a reluctant lover to tell you that, yes, oh, yes, YES yes she will be there in the South Of France! Let joy be unconfined and the Bikini Body Diet commence in public. Before indifferently deploying her role as a slinger of bunting on some sub-irrelevant stand her absent customers paid for.
Duck and Dive: The Jive Twinz
This binary of bliss represents a crude attempt to define ROI as a function of expense accounts and group ingestion of insipid intoxicants. Client and Agency in a perfect marriage of mutually co-dependent decadence and laddish indulgence. 'UK' sits in their titles like a flatulent badge of beefy honour. Both tell their bosses of the networking opportunities and far, far more. Both want to party harder on the poor boss's dime than Hugh Hefner could have imagined in a rage dust haze of 1978. They slide through the scene with company credit cards and easy charm, burning hotter and faster than bog roll in a blast furnace. By day three, the minibar has been expended to the point the hotel staff want to call a doctor and then the police. Unchanged clothes stick to their bodies. Fraud alerts from the credit card company ring out an insane cadence on "stolen" smartphones. It will be a long flight home in a malodorous mutual silence. The Twinz are stewing in vague memories possibly including a helicopter ride to Monaco, fraudulent encounters with street pharmacists and life changingly misapplied prophylactics. More lines have been crossed than at all the running events at the Olympics - combined. For the last 70 years. Cash Flow issues necessitated hitching to the airport after it became bell clear the world's oldest profession is best left to the professionals. No one must know or ever speak of any of this, other than perhaps appalled and traumatised CCTV operators.
Mattress Back Magician
Sex is wonderful and too taboo even today. It is why we are here and our close Bonobo cousins, fellow Chimps, know how to use it. Yet when abused by this Magician, it becomes as crass and stupid as comedy sugar mammary glands bought online for a stag party. In a fairer world, EMEA Director of #Hashtags would not only be on His browning business cards, but also branded on the extra thick rubber relief he carries unused yet blatant in his wallet. In Cannes such a confectionary conjuror thinks a bit of random love means business decisions. His roving eyes and hands are all in service of driving value for his agency, an act as selfless as kissing a cuttlefish in aid of a rare fat retainer. The conquests are mostly imaginary, or are synthesized from the sloppy Sloth recollection of the anonymous air kiss of some poor creature trying to get away without making a scene.
Well, there they are. If you're there, beware and take care. At least you've been warned.
The antidote to all this is to look out for the people who truly belong.
BEHOLD, the genuine advertising creative. The real stars who need no artificial lighting. Our friends and daily inspiration. These are the hearts and minds behind the campaigns which push the profession forward and make a difference to our clients and our art form. Campaigns such as Ogilvy's #lookup for British Airways, AlmapBBDO's Side Assist for VW, and Leo Burnett's Bentley Burial for the Brazilian Association of Organ Transplant.
How can these far rarer specimens, the real Lions, be recognised in the wild? Especially as they will not make themselves apparent up in your face like the bestiary detailed above?
Quiet confidence, and humility before their global peers.
Many will come from "Emerging Markets", that have to try, rather than from the Old West. No partying until Thursday and then not in a Penthouse parody manner but as a well deserved, rare chance to bask in the glow of real creative achievement amongst friends. These creatures breathe and execute excellence without trying, or shouting about it.
An Endangered Species, sure. But one that endures and gives both pause and hope to all of us in our too often libelled profession.
To our good friends in advertising, enjoy!