W+K’s Alex Rogers: confessions of a Cannes virgin

It’s Cannes week and adland’s (self-appointed) finest are gathering on the Croisette to award each other, listen to seminars and speakers and consume heroic amounts of Riviera rosé. Wieden+Kennedy London new business director Alexandra Rogers sends her first despatch from the front.

If you are anything like me you will spend a lot of your day in the agency discussing ‘creative direction’ and ‘production estimates’. Yet when such conversations are overheard out of context, say on BA 346 from Heathrow to Nice, we sound a lot less Mad Men and much more sad men. This morning I sat alone aboard that very Adland Express, grimacing in silence listening to such ‘ad wank’ conversations.

There I sat, one of six uniform girls sporting pastel coloured maxi dresses, denim jackets and the type of manicure that comes with the promise of not chipping before the closing gala. Full of self-loathing at what I represented, I feared the 60th Cannes, my first, may be everything I hate about our industry.

Then I landed and the bubble burst. In a good way. No heatwave, no yachts, no boozing in sight. Instead, overcast skies, a French train strike and missing luggage. Perhaps the reality of being here may outweigh the horrid hype. Perhaps this wouldn’t be Soho-by-sea after all.

Registration at the Palais allayed all my concerns. This is a truly global festival. Most of the participants I met today hail from South America and Asia. Possibly as they have furthest to travel they’ve decided to set out sooner but reassuringly this isn’t just the regular faces from Campaign spotted in 3D.

In fact the first seminar I went to focussed on the importance of global culture in advertising. Not just in the work we produce, but also in the relationships we build. As we travel more frequently, and increasingly work in a greater number of countries, the panel talked about appreciating, respecting and immersing ourselves in the environments we enter as well as taking our own reference points with us.

It was interesting to hear about the stark contrasts between US, Brazilian and British ways of working and our social interaction, let alone the differences in our respective creative output.

So as the sun starts to set over the Croisette and I unpack my remaining maxi dresses, I’m heading out to sample some of the Riviera rosé I have heard so much about. Between you and me, I’m secretly hoping at least that stereotype about Cannes is on the money.

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