Cannes Lions

Ken Wheaton in Cannes: First Time, First Day and Still No Rosé

On the Benefits of Not Overscheduling

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Along the Croisette in Cannes.
Along the Croisette in Cannes. Credit: Ken Wheaton

I've been at Advertising Age going on 16 years and I'm now its editor.

And this is my first trip to Cannes.

I worry that Cannes is the sort of thing that might be wasted on the experienced. Then again, were I still in the bloom of youth -- and considering my behavior when young -- a trip to Cannes might have found me as one of those unfortunate side-show stories of sex on the beach or getting struck down by a car.

As it is, I was exhausted even before Delta Flight 412 left New York. It had nothing to do with the scrum of a 767's worth of ad people forgetting the basic concept of lines. (Former Ad Ager and current KBS'er Matt Creamer did a bang-up job of capturing that particular portrait back in 2007. It's still worth a read today.)

No, the exhaustion was from two or three weeks of an inbox just flooded with emails about parties and meetings and panel discussions and more meetings and more parties and, well, you get the picture.

One of the first rules of Cannes, as told to me by every previous editor and by our current team of journalists, Cannes pros all, is "Don't overschedule." But the people who tell me this are among the worst sinners on this. It's like me instructing someone else on the second rule of Cannes, "Don't drink too much."

It drives me crazy, the overscheduling. Cannes is supposed to be a celebration of creativity, the best of what we do. But how many people spend the week locked into meetings, a cloud of rosé regret hovering over you as you run to and fro? How many times are you rushing off to a meeting with someone who works four blocks from you back in the homeland?

I'm told that a meeting here is much different from a meeting anywhere else. And I believe it.

But still.

This year was also my first trip to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. I overscheduled. And while I managed two floor tours, one with MediaLink and one with GroupM's Irwin Gotlieb, I still kick myself for not spending time on the floors just wandering around and looking at things on my own, possibly discovering something that would have blown my mind. I didn't have the time.

Yes. I know. This sounds too much like complaining, not to mention a top contender for First World Problem of the Year. I could take the crown in the Privilege Pageant. "Oh, you have to go to the south of France and look at some advertising and drink some wine and listen to people talk about marketing and maybe get blisters on your fingers from writing about it? Please. Let me alert the United Nations."

(I should also point out that Deputy Editor Judy Pollack's been here even longer, and this is her first trip to Cannes, too. Is she bitching and moaning? Nope. Always the sport, she even went on a "How to Cannes" tour on Sunday. Read about that here.)

So no more complaining. Well, none today at any rate. Though I really do want to say something about the ad clutter. Way to muck up a beautiful seaside village, guys. Just slap your logos everywhere, why don't you?

What the inside of a Cannes delegate's bag looks like.
What the inside of a Cannes delegate's bag looks like. Credit: Ken Wheaton

For what it's worth, after arriving today, I shuffled down to the Palais and picked up my credentials. I also picked up a swag bag, which might have been the first I've ever had that contained another tote bag inside of it. I wandered around getting the lay of the land. I checked out a bit of the work on the smart-pad stations set up there, but was more surprised and delighted to find that even in 2016, people still hang sheets of paper up on walls. I'm biased, of course, but it does the heart good to see that print, in some version, still matters.

And I haven't overscheduled for Cannes. I don't think. I have an 11x17 sheet of paper and on it is one week's worth of a Google Calendar. It's certainly more crowded than a regular week, but there are gaps there. I do feel an undue amount of pressure to just fill them. Those gaps just sit there like hungry, homeless children with pleading eyes -- and there's a crowd off to the side judging me for not doing anything about it.

Well, they can all hop in an Ubercopper and go wherever it is that those take you.

I've got some meetings. I've got some parties. I've got some panels. And I'm getting on at least one yacht-based event, because when in Cannes, etc. But I've also got some time to write and some time to think.

Be sure to do that too. Find some time to think and randomly discover things. Sure, it's business, but it doesn't have to all be transactional. This is supposed to be inspiration and I've found that trying to schedule inspiration doesn't work.

But if you see me sitting somewhere staring off into space, don't be afraid to introduce yourself. As my wife would tell you, running my mouth with friends and strangers is a favorite pastime. And it, too, is inspirational.

I'll quit preaching, now. I've got to find some rosé.

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