Marcello Serpa of Almap BBDO is one of the most famous creatives in the world. The former Cannes jury president is a rock star in Brazil and takes his advertising very seriously, but there was only one place he was going to be today at lunchtime: watching the soccer.
"You understand about my canceling our lunch. This is about football, Stefano?" Serpa asked me. And as I watched him joyfully kissing his new lunch date, a pretty Brazilian soccer fan, the earnest formality of New York business life was suddenly a distant memory.
Coming into this festival, many said the mood would be greatly dulled by the year's many troubles, that there would be few parties and not even a Hatchuel running the show.
Well, only that last item is accurate. There is an electricity in the air here, but you have no hope of understanding it unless you have a grip on the soccer World Cup. Wake up at the back, all you American readers: You have made it through to the quarter finals for the first time since, well, at least since you re-christened football as soccer.
As much as the U.S.'s 2-0 victory over Mexico was wasted on the ambivalent early-arriving Americans at the festival, the Brazilian win over the plucky Belgians by the same score was truly an event for the ears. You could hear it in Monte Carlo!
More than 250 singing, chanting, screaming, dancing Brazilians swaying in a sea of yellow turned the lounge bar of the fabled Carlton Hotel into the Maracana Stadium. Apparently many Brazilian advertising executives delayed their trip to Cannes until after the game -- you would never have guessed.
There are no Argentines here this year, but it's not because of the recession. They got knocked out of the World Cup last week by the English: a national humiliation. There is no way they are going to share in everybody else's party.
Ah, parties! There certainly are some this year. There's Leo Burnett, TBWA, Dentsu, various production companies and various smaller gatherings, plus of course the huge DDB affair on Friday night. I'm sure that one will be a riot -- a laugh-a-minute wake for the management team's Omnicom stock options.
As for Franz Prenner? How did this essentially decent and honorable man from Austria end up being entangled in a war of the Hatchuels and at the center of the vipers' nest of politicking,bitchiness and nationalism that is the Cannes Festival?
Well the face-value explanation is that he's neutral: Austria has never won a creative lion, and on past experience is unlikely to in the near future. But, as ever, that is to underestimate soccer's role in all this.
Austria, of course, has never won the World Cup -- or much anything at soccer -- and it is much more important to be soccer neutral here than advertising's Switzerland.
That's why Jeff Goodby is such a good choice for jury president during a World Cup Cannes. He's one of those ambivalent Americans, and as such will not have a downer on either the English or the Brazilian work this Friday depending on who wins.
In fact, locked in the judging room he won't even be in the Carlton bar for the breakfast encounter. He will be lucky to get his full jury quorum. But, at least, there'll be seats for the shortlist screenings!