Retirez vos lacets s’il vous plaît! The guard gruffly tells me to remove my shoelaces. Moments later the cell door slams shut, followed by silence. And yet the week started off on such a promising note, with an educational junket to the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. You might think that the brains of advertising folk run on a Mad Men-style diet of Jack Daniels and coke, but the mundane reality is that it’s drab machine coffee that keeps most of us going. Spending our days as we do searching, so to speak, for that one elusive truffle in the Dordogne, it’s important that we fill our minds with new impressions every now and then in order to keep our ideas fresh.
The current trend at Cannes Lions is advertising that doesn’t look like advertising. Conventional ads tell you that the product they’re pushing is so fabulous that you immediately need to make your way to the nearest shop stat (“I’d walk a mile for a Camel”; “Finger-lickin’ good”). But advertising has turned into a win-win world in recent years where products must combine commercial success with added value to society. South African beer brands developed a beer mat that tells people if their drink has been spiked with a date rape drug. While Toyota Australia transformed its LandCruisers into roving emergency communications hotspots for the vast sections of the outback that have no mobile coverage. And let’s not forget the grand winner of this year’s festival: ING’s ‘Next Rembrandt’ campaign. A computer scanned all Rembrandt paintings for use of colour, brush strokes and dimensions and printed an all-new ‘Rembrandt’ in 3D. It’s safe to say the advertising creatives of the future are more likely to be engineers than art school graduates. And next year’s Grand Prix will undoubtedly go to Puma’s tear shirt. A football shirt that spontaneously gets ripped apart as soon as the opponent approaches. Card provokers, like Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben, can save themselves the trouble of diving and faking an injury.
But while Cannes Lions may provide plenty of food for the mind, it’s less kind on the wallet. On the chic Promenade de la Croisette, a beer and two olives will set you back 15 euros, while the nightly rate at a hotel averages EUR 400 and an all-access exhibition pass sells for a whopping EUR 2,500. Madness, “Croisette syndrome”! One could be forgiven for thinking that the champagne cooler, bathrobe, hairdryer and flat-screen TV in the hotel room are included in the price, but as it happened, the customs officer at Nice Airport begged to differ. After enduring a cavity search and spending the night on a straw mattress, I’m nonetheless flying back to Amsterdam contented. I may have missed out on the goody bag this time, but I came away with a head positively brimming with ideas.