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Festival Fawns on the World's Largest Advertising Client

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CANNES ( -- Despite the seeming culture clash, Procter & Gamble Co.'s landing at Cannes met surprisingly little resistance. Indeed, they're welcomed with open arms, as International Advertising Festival management,'s Jack Neff is embedded with P&G forces in Cannes.
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P&G agencies and even the Cannes municipal government combine to fawn on the world's biggest client.

P&G-only receptions
P&G's global marketing officer, Jim Stengel, who twice had been prominently featured on the front page of the Lions Daily, the festival's official publication, led the troops through two P&G-only agency receptions, hosted by Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett Co. and Grey Global Group, respectively, early on Wednesday evening.

Mr. Stengel in April called the Cannes trip a "bonding opportunity" for P&G and its agencies. And they bonded enthusiastically on Wednesday. These, like other P&G events, are mandatory for the P&G contingent, noted Stephen Squire, an advertising development director from Geneva. But it was not a huge sacrifice. Mr. Stengel, who had vowed to drop in on the Grey party at the Martinez Hotel beachfront before heading off to the Lions Direct/Media Lions Award Ceremony, lingered nearly an hour. He complimented the hosts on the branding savvy of the signature "Grey Glow" drink -- actually a fluorescent orange mango and vodka concoction -- served at the entrance.

Fasionably late arrival
Arriving fashionably late to the awards, Mr. and Mrs. Stengel had forgotten their invitations to the limited-access event and were at first delayed at the door. But no problem. Attentive International Advertising Festival CEO Terry Savage, aware of the absence at the P&G table up

Photo: Jack Neff
P&G's global marketing chief, Jim Stengel, chairs a meeting of his marketing execs in the Majestic Hotel bar.
front, quickly whisked the party into its seats.

Even the mayor of Cannes is going out of his way to make P&G welcome, hosting a P&G-only champagne reception at the town hall on Saturday morning (prior to a Cannes-ending debriefing on Saturday) in a gesture of deference that rivals even what Cincinnati can dish out.

In perhaps the ultimate proof that P&G alumni are ubiquitous, Cannes' mayor, Bernard Brochand, is an alum, as is the festival's chairman, Roger Hatchuel. Mr. Brochand helped launch P&G's Ariel detergent in France in 1968, unloading cases himself at stores because of a strike. Not to be outdone by his fellow alum, Mr. Hatchuel will pop open some bottles of Dom Perignon for the P&G crew in a private reception prior to the "Presentation of 50 Years of Cannes Grand Prix" this evening.

'Where's the demo?'
If P&G had any doubts that they would get the cold shoulder from the French in their maiden Cannes voyage, such numerous acts of kindness put them to rest. They are, indeed, comfortable enough for some self-deprecating humor. At the Burnett party, Mathilde Delhoume, marketing director for baby care, joked that the contingent next year should come wearing

Photo: Jack Neff
At Leo Burnett's exclusive P&G party were (l to r): Diane Dietz, P&G oral care marketing director; Mariana Sanchez, senior vice president and global equity director at Saatchi & Saatchi, Paris; and Sharon Cunliffe, P&G marketing director for baby care in Europe.
T-shirts that say "I'm from P&G" on the front and "Where's the Demo Festival?" on back.

But P&G's arrival in force at Cannes seems to be convincing people it has loosened up from the days of its strict insistence on product demos in almost every ad. "I've been told five times since I've been here that we're becoming a magnet client," Mr. Stengel told the P&G throng at a welcome meeting at a Hotel Majestic lounge. "Magnet client" and P&G, of course, have seldom occurred in the same sentence without irony in years past.

Stengel's Lions
But Mr. Stengel said: "The fact that we're here as a group is highly powerful. ... Our goal and our agencies' goal is to work with the best, and I think that's starting to take hold." As proof, he pointed to P&G agencies capturing two bronze and one silver in Press & Poster Lions ceremonies the night before.

Despite the wining and dining, P&G is keeping its nose to the grindstone. Executives spent most of the day ensconced in theaters viewing hundreds of Cannes entries. But at least a few crossed the Croisette to the Cannes beaches afterward, including Peter Carter, a hair-care advertising development director, who arrived at the welcome meeting in beachwear.

Jonathan Barr, advertising development director for P&G's fine fragrance business and a force behind one of P&G's most flagrant acts of advertising creativity of recent years, the "Naked Man" ad by Grey for the Lacoste men's fragrance, could not be coaxed by colleagues to spice up the Burnett

Photo: Jack Neff
Poolside at the P&G reception at the Majestic are (l to r): Jonathan Davis, Leo Burnett's executive vice president and director of broadcast production; Cheryl Berman, chairman and chief creative officer; and Julie Thompson, senior vice president for corporate communications.
party by diving naked into the Majestic pool.

'Naked man'
But he did confide that last year's "Naked Man" ad was his second brush with baring it all in advertising at P&G. The first effort, for Hugo Boss in 1994, ended up being kicked all the way to the top -- to then-President John Pepper -- for a final decision. Mr. Pepper insisted a version with the man clad in swim trunks be shot as well for consideration, Mr. Barr said. When the ad was presented to Mr. Pepper for approval, the version with the trunks had somehow been misplaced, Mr. Barr said. Reluctantly, he approved the add sans trunks.

Several P&G-ers attended director Herman Vaske's mock film noir mystery Who Killed the Idea? And several agreed with the conclusion of many featured luminaries who fingered client committees as the chief culprit. One P&G agency executive chimed in: "The brand manager did it."

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