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18 June 2024

Cannes 2024 - Day 1.

by Jason Stone


The familiar rhythms of Cannes Lions kicked in on Monday during the first big day of this year's festival. It begins with the collection of the badge. Having failed in his resolve to collect it on Sunday ahead of the mayhem, DAVID was pleased to discover a highly efficient operation in place, and it wasn't long before he was heading to the Palais proudly sporting his PRESS lanyard.

The layout in the Palais is weird. The upper floors have two halves, with no bridge between them so if you are headed for a destination, and you go up the wrong staircase, you discover the entrance is tantalisingly within sight but impossible to reach. And, inevitability, you go up the wrong staircase.

Once you find it, the press room is impressive in scale with dozens of journalists tapping away on their Macs or interviewing one another on mobile phones. There is a terrace that overlooks the marina, and on a nearby stage a number of inexperienced and uninspiring speakers preach their gospel to audiences soullessly fulfilling their obligations.

As you can see, not every journo is as cool and composed as your correspondent... for some the strain of pressing deadlines starts to show before the week is properly underway.

The press room at Cannes is clique-ridden with incumbents operating wholly within their bubbles. It's hard to know why. It compares very poorly with the convivial vibe in the press room at the Edinburgh TV Festival where journalists on national titles are a lot less guarded than the denizens of the trade press in Cannes.

This isn't just disappointing because it makes the Cannes press room less fun... it also means there's no sharing of intel - which is a vital dynamic in Edinburgh as journalists work together to decode the utterances of industry leaders and form a consensus about the key takeaways of what they say.

Few, if any, of the public conversations in Cannes are designed for anything significant to be said. There is no need to decipher the top line of an event if it's primarily a series of platitudinous answers to softball questions.

After a meeting was cancelled, DAVID decided to pop in to a session featuring John Legend and Chrissy Teigen being interviewed by Kara Swisher. The queue was long. Disney World long. As he was somewhere near the back, it felt possible that he wouldn't get in. But the Debussy Theatre is capacious and everyone was accommodated, even if some had to sit on the floor. There was a palpable buzz of excitement, and when Legend and Tiegen came on stage, a huge cheer went up.

That was the last display of anything from the audience. The conversation, which focussed entirely on the duo's relationships with brands - including Kismet, the pet food they launched recently, was astoundingly boring.

The questions were designed to enable Legend and Tiegen to lay claim to authenticity. Tiegen was especially keen to say they only get behind brands they believe in... most especially those they own. A claim somewhat undermined when she admitted that she needed to be reminded not to be seen eating McDonald's by her social media team because of a deal she and her husband have with KFC. But perhaps her occasional craving for a Big Mac isn't authentic.

The atmosphere was that of a slowly deflating balloon. Maybe the audience, so enthusiastic in their greeting, were happy just to have been in the presence of Legend and Tiegen, and gave them a rousing reception at the end. DAVID can't say because there is only so much banality he can endure, and he escaped before the end, surrendering his seat to one of those who had been obliged to sit on the floor.

From there to Sport Beach where the line-up promised England goalkeeper Mary Earps, Chelsea's record goalscorer Frank Lampard, and Manchester United legend Eric Cantona.

Not all on the same panel... but still.

Once again though, the unrelenting focus on brands and brand partnerships made for a very dull outcome. It is understandable up to a point, but the reason brands pay huge sums to secure an association with sports stars is because of what they can being to the party so it seems oddly misguided not to encourage a conversation about their careers.

In the case of Mary Earps, there is a potentially interesting brand conversation because of the controversy surrounding Nike's initial decision not to make and sell a replica of Earps's goalkeeping shirt after the last World Cup. Though this did eventually come into the discussion when Earps brought it up, it should obviously have been front and central.

Frank Lampard was delayed so it was straight to Eric Cantona's session. Surely, King Eric wouldn't be willing to play along with asinine questions designed by a PR company to highlight a brand activation. Oh yes, he would. He bridled slightly at a question that required him to imply the name of the sponsor on the front of the shirt meant as much to him as his own name on the back and the fabled figure seven that aligned him with George Best. But he was emphatically and disappointingly 'on message'.

At times he spoke as though he had suddenly remembered that the event organisers were holding his family at gun point back stage, but not once did he veer from the important job of drawing attention to the awesomeness of the new sponsor. If ever a king fu kick was needed...

That was more than enough for any sane person, and the rest of the day was spent in the glorious company of Sophie Gold, and the wonderful raconteur Raife Burchell. The first on the Carlton Terrace, and the second in the Mediterranean Sea.

At the far end of the Croisette, it's possible to forget about the Festival of Creativity as there appears to be a powerful gravitational force keeping attendees within a specific zone, and once you escape it, you are mercifully free of the braying wristbanded hordes.

This makes it possible to enjoy a blissful time on a public beach far from this maddening crowd, and that is exactly what DAVID did as the sun headed for the horizon. More tomorrow.

David Reviews is hand-crafted at 7 Seven Sisters, Lenzie, Glasgow, G66 3AW. Editor: Jason Stone. Phone: 0141 776 7766. E-mail: jason@davidreviews.com.