Agencies vie for the biggest celebrities at Cannes – Don Draper noses ahead of Bill Clinton

Cannes has been stuffed to bursting this year, with no hotel rooms free, often no space in the packed-out seminars, no room in restaurants and barely a spare inch to walk down on La Croisette at night. The veterans hark back to the glory days of the empty, unpopular Cannes Lions a few years back (when not trying to convince you that the parties used to be even bigger and more expensive than they are today which, quite frankly, is sickening) but there’s no doubt Cannes 2012 is back on top in terms of popularity.

I wonder how much this is due to the influx of celebrities this year. Agencies often try to trump each other with the most high profile seminar speaker, but they’re really pulling out the stops this time. Grupo ABC takes first prize by snagging Bill Clinton, the former president of the USA for goodness sake, but that’s just the beginning. Musicians are all over the place, with Smokey Robinson talking with Crispin Porter + Bogusky and Debbie Harry continuing the ‘Legends of Music’ series for Grey, while marketing and communications company Cheil Worldwide brought along K-Pop sensations 2NE1.

I’d never heard of them either but their terrifyingly hysterical fans gathered outside the Palais were the first thing I encountered as I arrived at the beginning of the week and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone as excited since.

Mark Ronson, Erykah Badu and Skrillex all performed at Wednesday’s Microsoft and Innocean party, while London band Zulu Winter entertained the Ogilvy beach party on Thursday. But never have I heard more excitement than when everybody found out Jon Hamm (left) was around at the beginning of the week, courtesy of Mcgarrybowen. Don Draper, the original adman! I wonder if any actual Mad Men era ad man has ever experienced that level of female adoration, anywhere. Actor and rapper Omar Epps was another big talking point thanks to SapientNitro and Ogilvy & Mather kept it progressive with modern philosopher Alain de Botton.

All very exciting, and possibly helping to make Cannes Lions better-known outside the industry (although somehow I doubt it) but a lot of people here are asking: what do these people know about advertising? Surely a talk by two industry giants – ’30 Years of Creative Chaos, with Sir John Hegarty and Dan Wieden’ – is of more worth, although with the industry turning to other creative forces and facing firmly to the future, maybe those in other, more social media-aware industries are ideally placed to provide forward thinking insights. Still, seems like a lot of agency posing to me though.

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About Becky Wilkie

Becky Wilkie is an English Literature graduate striving to uncover the inner workings of the advertising industry; posing as a roaming reporter and working in trade PR. She can otherwise be found playing with her about-to-be famous band Fledglings.