The nutter in the gutter

Cannes, I believe, is in the wrong place.

Cannes shouldn’t be in Cannes.

The ad festival is held hostage by the resort in terms of exorbitant and insultingly high prices and should really re-locate to somewhere else.

But the whole thing is a head-job anyway.

Does anybody who isn’t a raving alcoholic actually look forward to going to Cannes ?

Before you get there, most people think – “this is going to be bedlam and I don’t have the time for it”.

But when you’re down there, things can look a bit different through several rose-filled glasses.

People will tell you that the rose tastes better there than anywhere else in the world, and that may be true, but it’s basically a license to drink anything with ethanol in it for 24 hours a day.

Many years ago, when I used to enjoy a few drinks myself, I told a man called Simon Dalgliesh, who ran the show, that he was missing a trick. “You’ve got the cream of the world’s advertising creative talent turning up in one place for a week – you should host a few seminars or something.”

Simon eventually took me at my word and the festival is now jam-packed with talks given by the great and the boring, 99% of which are just promoting their own products – but they are there merely as palate-cleansers, in between the relentless schmoozing and boozing.

The sorbets between the sherberts.

To the people of Cannes, long-suffering and money-grabbing bunch of arrogant bastards that they are, the advertising festival is merely one in a never-ending chain of conferences and festivals. They totter from the film festival one week to the dentists’ convention the week after.

And the gynaecologists slip in somewhere in the middle.

But one thing differentiates the advertising festival from all the others.

The “Gutter Bar”.

This is a bar whose real name I have never discovered, at whose counters a few souls can be seen sipping small glasses of rose for 51 weeks of the year.

During the ad festival, however, it is heaving with ad-folk drinking enough alcohol to float an oligarch’s yacht, although the cost of a small Jack and coke there could financially cripple most ad agencies, given the miniscule margins they’re trying to live off.

You can tell the poseurs because they’re wearing sun-glasses after dusk (although I had to take mine off to do it).

Some of us may be looking like stars, but we are all in the gutter bar.

I behaved well this year, stayed sober and only insulted a handful of influential and sensitive people.

For me, that’s a result.

I’d been invited by Isobar, with my Decoded partners,  to give a few talks on coding for the creative industries, and so we found ourselves in the Aegis Beach House, a place so beguiling, hospitable and comfortable I  didn’t ever want to leave.

In between telling people they should learn code, I could be found splayed on a sun-bed while a girl in very small white shorts asked me what flavour of smoothie I wanted.

But behind the fun and games, some sinister shadows played.

For a British creative, all was not wine and boules. We fared quite well in TV, but badly in cyber, the creative language of the future.

And the Ukraine game showed how something else we invented was soon going to slip from our grasp, too.

But there were even bigger implications than this for the poor liggers trying to blag another free drink off Microsoft.

At one point I was giving a lecture to a bunch of talented young creatives in a Cannes academy run by Bob Isherwood.

We were riffing on the challenges facing the industry and a guy in the front row said “all it takes is for Google to turn the dial up and it’s game over for the ad agencies.”

You know that time when you’re a kid playing outside, in the glorious late summer sunshine, and you sense that your Mum is about to appear at the door and tell you it’s time for bed …

It felt a bit like that.

  • Alex Fraser

    “all it takes is for Google to turn the dial up and it’s game over for the ad agencies.”Please can you explain what this means. What specifically could Google do? Read more:

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