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Jane Austin in Cannes: is it time to listen to the introverts?

There’s something about coming to Cannes Lions (year in year out) that makes you wonder about your life and your choices.

The cumulative sleep deprivation, the constant hum of (often) empty chatter and endless parade of panels, meet-ups and kabana lounges could turn even the most extroverted person into a wallflower with a mild case of PTSD. On day 1 of Cannes week, you’re Holly Golightly in full party mode. By day 4, you’re Greta Garbo with a cob on.

So, where can the silent minority of shell-shocked misanthropes at Cannes retreat to? Here’s a tip: Saatchi & Saatchi’s New Creators’ Showcase at Cannes isn’t just somewhere to go to check out short films from emerging talent. It’s a dark, quiet, air-conditioned room with comfy seats where no one will talk to you.

Personally, I’d like to see lots of antisocial events and spaces at Cannes Lions. The brainchild of Adweek’s brilliant creativity editor Brittaney Kiefer is an ‘introverts beach,’ with a giant awning right across it that keeps the place permanently in the shade. A sandy haven where Covid-style restrictions would be reinforced, with everyone forced to stand at least one metre apart. Books, podcasts, and wristband (I know, another one) that signals if you are open to conversation or not. It could have a dress code of giant hats and wafty kaftans, so you can walk around like Elizabeth Taylor trying to hide her plastic surgery scars, safe in the knowledge that you won’t be recognised.

Sadly, this industry doesn’t really cater to introverts who find the idea of schmoozing abhorrent and would prefer to reorganise the cutlery drawer than make small talk with a prospective new client. By Wednesday, I was having a lot more conversations about anxiety and mental health than I had at the beginning of the week.

More generally, mental health should be much further up the agenda in advertising, a sector with an infamously brutal working culture and long hours. For all the talk around wellbeing, the taboo around mental health remains. A recent NABS survey showed that four in 10 advertising staffers avoid talking openly about their mental health challenges for fear it could hold back their career.

Why mental health isn’t more valued in adland (or addled) is beyond me. In other sectors, such as sport for example, wellbeing is viewed as critical to performance.

At Cannes this week, Serena Williams’ former coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, said that mental health was more important than skill. “I think it’s more about mental than anything than anything else,” he said. “I think most of my job is to help them develop as people and become as confident as they can become in their ability to achieve what they’re dreaming to achieve.”

Yet the options to maintain psychological equilibrium at Cannes are limited. On the upside, there’s an app for that. Deepak Chopra is getting in on the meditation app game and chose Cannes week to launch his ‘AI Twin’ mental health app. He also gave some tips to Cannes on how to be more creative. These included: “Surrender to uncertainty and unpredictability”.

This attitude will come in handy on the return home when you encounter the inevitable flight delays/cancellations/strike action at Nice airport. Plus ça change

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