Tips for first-timers

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* Stay at a beachfront "palace" hotel. The chic Majestic is just steps from the Palais des Festivals. The wedding-cake-like Carlton is the Americans' belle epoque favorite. The Martinez, with its all-night bar, is for serious party people.

* Don't let your friends at Interpublic Group of Cos. persuade you to stay at the Hotel du Cap in Cap d'Antibes. You can't afford it. One Interpublic exec has switched hotels since discovering at checkout that a papaya ordered every morning at breakfast cost $90. Each.

* Get on TV. CNBC Europe will film this year's festival and broadcast ad world news from a small studio at the Palais.

* The week's hottest tickets: Arrive early for Saatchi & Saatchi's immensely popular "New Directors Showcase," Thursday, June 24 at 11 a.m. Hang out with Publicis' David Droga and Maurice Levy at Pierre Cardin's villa Palais Bulles that same night. Beg or steal an invite/wrist bracelet for DDB's high-decibel beach party that goes far into the night because Cannes mayor Bernard Brochand is a former DDB exec and, like everyone else, a P&G alumni.

* The after-hours hangouts: The Americans have colonized the Carlton terrace, also the best spot for Joe Pytka sightings. Head for the Martinez bar where the Europeans go after 11 p.m. The Gutter Bar next door is very British, very drunken.

* If you do just one work thing, see the film shortlist. These judges' picks last about 4 hours. Arrive at 9 a.m. sharp Friday, June 25, to get a seat.

* The most lavish, picturesque meals are outside Cannes. Tell your agency you want to try the world-famous bouillabaisse at Tetou in Golfe Juan or go to the Colombe D'Or, a stunning restaurant inn at St. Paul de Vence filled with now-priceless art swapped by impoverished Impressionists for meals.

* Get a good seat at the June 26 Saturday night gala. The secret: security passes that let you slip in the VIP entrance and sit in front. Otherwise you'll stand in a long line in the blazing sun, or watch a monitor from the overflow room. The festival doles out security passes to a select few and to agency winners who must collect awards. Order your agency to win enough Lions to score extra security passes.

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