Kylie, brick-throwing, Sorrell, #MeToo, and the consultants. Cannes 2018 was quieter but still had its moments

I hadn’t been to Cannes for a while, but by all accounts the bars and the parties were a lot less packed this June than they have been in recent years.

Agency budget cuts and Publicis Groupe’s temporary Cannes embargo helped reduce numbers, but there was also speculation that #MeToo had kept people away, as ad execs understood their behaviours of the past were no longer acceptable, but didn’t trust themselves to get the new codes of conduct right.

They call it a Festival of Creativity, but really it’s a trade fair. The hoardings of the big ad tech and media companies block out beach views and disguise the riviera architecture, while the yachts are really just floating meeting rooms: it’s all about demonstrating that you have a big budget and you mean business.

In the harbour, the boats are lined up in order of size. PwC and Accenture’s yachts were moored right next to each other, so clearly the consultants had committed similarly big budgets to making their presence felt.

PwC’s message for the week was all about independence and transparency, while Accenture Interactive competed more directly with the creative agencies, and did pretty well at it – not just by winning a Grand Prix, but by entering into the spirit of Cannes and putting on parties that had guests queuing up to attend.

Not all Accenture’s communication screamed creativity, but it is lazy and foolish for agencies to dismiss the consultancies as dull impostors. They employ some astonishingly bright minds and are bringing fresh thinking to the challenges faced by traditional agency groups.

There was still plenty of the old-fashioned fun that Cannes is known for. The Killers entertained at Spotify’s beach bash, and Kylie Minogue was said to have been paid £500,000 for playing at News UK’s party in the hills. The locals weren’t so impressed, though; police escorts were brought in after bricks were thrown at limousines ferrying party-goers between the Croisette and the Château de Garibondy.

Despite his recent fall from grace, Martin Sorrell’s presence in Cannes still caused a stir and helped give the festival some of the newsworthiness that it seemed to be lacking.

The other thing that was lacking, of course, was the Snapchat ferris wheel of hubris, which last year was held up as a symbol of a bloated festival and reviled as an affront to creativity.

Snapchat came back this year with an altogether subtler presence, although it probably cost just as much money. The company collaborated with the White Cube gallery and artist Christian Marclay (go and see his masterpiece “The Clock” which is back in London at Tate Modern this autumn) to put together a series of immersive audio-visual installations.

The interactive ones in particular were some of the very best examples of creativity at the festival, but sadly they attracted very little attention compared to last year’s ferris wheel gaff.

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About Emma Hall

Emma Hall
Emma Hall is the former Europe Editor of Ad Age, where she covered European marketing advertising, digital and media stories. She has written for newspapers including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph, and was previously a section editor at Campaign. Emma started her career in New York as a researcher for a biography of Keith Richards.