Yet another day at Cannes – a day of national mourning here, with the nation in a state of gloom after the French football team’s exit from the FIFA World Cup. Over the last three days, almost all channels were discussing only football and the mess their team was in. The mood everywhere was palpably somber, and as soon as the French team was out, channels almost entirely seem to have moved away from the World Cup itself! (Reminds so much of India after exit from a cricket tournament – people the world over are the same when it comes to passion over a sport).
As far as the Cannes festival goes, it was again a ‘mixed bag’ in terms of the quality of the sessions – one is left with a feeling that in many of the sessions, the companies don’t necessarily send their most experienced people, and hence, the quality of the output is below par.
The star of the day clearly was Mark Zuckerberg, founder CEO of Facebook. Easily among the most impressive 26-year olds that I have come across, he spoke with great maturity and vision. He was candid, straight to the point and had an element of simplicity about him as he outlined his vision for his company. Coca Cola’s World Cup activation was another session which rose to expectations – one brand which, over the years, never failed to surprise. There were quite a few technology sessions – notably, Microsoft and Cheil, where they unveiled some breakthrough technology, which would transform the face of the advertising. Really amazing stuff in terms of technology, though the linkage to creativity and the applicability of the same is something that still needs to be thought through.
Looking back at the whole festival itself, it seems to be a very profitable business model and a strong brand among the fraternity. For the princely sum it charges, it does not even serve free water and everything is for sale. The sessions seem to be so structured that the big ones are towards the end and the pricing of the event is so structured that it encourages the customer to stay on for six days to get the full benefits of the event. Some of the sessions are also sponsored and so that also becomes an additional revenue stream. While not all the successful ads made in the world may land up here, nor does winning at Cannes assure success, over the years the event has managed to build an aura for itself that will last. No wonder it’s equated with the Oscars. Local business seems to thrive on such events. Cannes has also mastered the art of holding festivals, as apart from movies and advertising, they also have other festivals, notably music and photography. In fact, hotels give booking only based on confirmed event registration. The local government would be delighted, given the steady tourist flow that the events assure.
The festival also conducts quite a few workshops over the week for the young minds, which one has to pay for. It’s a pity one did not see too many Indian companies exposing their young talent to these workshops. The festival’s attendance is still being looked at as a perk for people at the top rather than learning ground for the young minds. This does not seem to be the case amongst the more evolved countries, and one met many young minds from as far as Brazil and Argentina, apart from Europe. One also does not see too many people from the client’s side attending. This year, however, one client from India has taken an encouraging step of bringing a contingent of 10 people from the brand team to the event. Talking to them, it was evident that they were finding this to be a huge learning experience. One saw very little of mingling amongst the crowd, however. People tended to stick in groups of their own country/ agency and so there was not to be picked up through networking. However, going through loads of good work from all over is a huge learning experience and many ideas set one thinking and opening up the minds.
The day ended with the Indian Party, graciously hosted by The Times of India. One finally got to see the Indian contingent in full and the Indian theme and Indian food was a welcome relief to most. As my stay comes to a close, the feelings about the trip is a bit mixed. The exposure to some good advertising work and some interesting sessions, apart from exploring the French Riviera were the positives. The inconsistency of the festival quality and low levels of networking would probably be the negatives, thus leaving me a bit unsure if I would like to come here again next year.