How to enjoy yourself at Cannes: Be a client. Your ad agencies will fly down their top client service executives to wine and dine you-and fend off rival ad agencies on the same mission.
At an event dominated by ad agency creatives and production company directors, more clients are coming and staying longer in the sun than ever before.
Agencies say clients pay their own way to Cannes but, once there, agencies spend lavishly to entertain them. Hotel accommodations start at $200 a night and registration at the festival is $975. (A special one-day registration fee geared to clients who just want to come and see their own category is $340.) Meals in very good restaurants start about $100 a head.
So tell your agency you want to dine at the Colombe d'Or, a sensational restaurant in nearby village St. Paul de Vence where artists used to swap meals for pictures, still hanging on the walls. Or the lavish Eden Roc restaurant at the Hotel du Cap, where Madonna stays during the other film festival. Test your agency's knowledge-are they aware none of these places accept credit cards? Did they reserve a table several months ago, just in case?
Sleeping around (town): The key places to stay on the beachfront Boulevard de la Croisette are the Majestic Hotel, home to the Cannes jury and most top French agency executives and their clients; the Martinez Hotel and its noisy all-night bar for serious party people; or the wedding cake-shaped Carlton Hotel with its fashionable beach restaurant and terrace bar. Staying at the beach doesn't mean you actually get to see the beach-a seaview is $86 a night extra.
Sniffing out Unilever: One of the mysteries of Cannes is why Unilever sends more people than any other advertiser. Why do Unileverites shun Cannes' hotels and stay in Grasse, an inland town that is the perfume capital of the world? And what do they do after they've watched all the detergent commercials? (This takes about two hours, tops.) No one really knows. But they never look like they're having a good time.
Michel Reinarz's secret life: Contrast that to Michel Reinarz, Nestle's bon vivant senior VP and director of visual communications. Usually disguised as a bronzed California surfer type in trendy sunglasses, slicked-back hair and bathing suit, Mr. Reinarz is easy to spot at the Carlton's beach or the Martinez's pool, depending on where he's staying, or almost any party. But appearances are deceptive. He logs long hours in the auditorium at the Palais watching commercials and sometimes slips back to Swiss headquarters in Vevey for a day's meeting.
Home sweet home: If it's too late to become a client, another way to enjoy Cannes is to own (not rent) your own villa. Lintas people are particularly good at this. Bob Mac-Laren, a creative director working on Unilever out of Lintas in Brussels, has one in Grasse. Barry Day, Lintas' vice chairman, stays at a house down the coast in Antibes. Barry's wife Lynn once explained, "We really do need four homes."
Under the Gunn: After attending Cannes for 21 straight years like Donald Gunn, you get your own seminar. Leo Burnett Co.'s corporate director of creative resources trains for the festival each year by watching some 2,500 international commercials and, in his role as unofficial soothsayer, confidently divines the Grand Prix winner. Last year he predicted the top prize would go to his own agency for a Norwegian airline spot. And the winner was ... a Japanese ad for Nissin's Cup Noodle from Hakuhodo. Don't miss that seminar this year.
Final judgment: No matter how much you like going to Cannes, be suspicious if your partners can't wait for you to get on that plane to the Riviera. A recent Cannes judge, Tom McElligott, learned from a reporter that while he was judging spots, his colleagues back in Minneapolis secretly fired him from McElligott Wright Morrison White, where he was chairman, ceo and creative director.
Mr. McElligott was reflective: "It's like when the parents go to Europe and the kids burn down the house."
Twin Peaks: To get in the mood for the Riviera, dip into Mary Blume's new book Cote d'Azur. It's a picturesque history of the frivolous French coast from the time Cannes was a poverty-stricken seaside village, accidentally discovered by English nobleman Lord Brougham in 1834 when a quarantine kept him from crossing to Italy. In just 160 years, the locals have learned to charge $6 for a Coca-Cola and $25 a day to rent a beach chair. Ms. Blume's Cote d'Azur trivia includes conversation-stoppers: Monte Carlo's real name is Spelugues (pronounced spay-LOOG).
Be the only person from your country to know whose breasts were the model for the Carlton Hotel's twin cupolas. (It wasn't Cannes habitues Queen Victoria, Coco Chanel or Zelda Fitzgerald.)