Cannes bad behaviour deserves to bepreserved

Sun, palm trees, yachts and Domaine D'Ott. Yes, it's Cannes time.

And enthusiasm for the Advertising Festival is showing no signs of waning. This year the event, with entries up by 12.5 per cent on last year, is set to be bigger than ever.

The festival's unstoppable growth is something of an anomaly. The famous excesses of the advertising industry - the long lunches and fast cars - have all but been ironed out by pressure from client companies. These days, marketers demand more businesslike behaviour from their agencies, at the same time as applying a constant downward pressure on the fees they pay.

But, for some reason, Cannes has survived. Innumerable agency and network chief executives representing all of the marketing disciplines still believe it is worth signing a fat cheque to cover the cost of award entries, delegate passes and breath-taking expense submissions.

For the ad networks, there is one very practical justification for this: Cannes glory is good for business. Omnicom's DDB, TBWA\Worldwide and BBDO networks take the top three places in the Gunn Report, which is heavily influenced by Cannes success. Owning the three most creative networks in the world is a major new-business calling card for Omnicom.

This has been Cannes' saviour, preserving the event's profligacy throughout the recent downturn. That Cannes now serves a tangible business purpose has necessarily changed its atmosphere. Thanks to Saatchi & Saatchi's global chief executive, Kevin Roberts, the festival has been stormed by Procter & Gamble marketers, keen to be associated with creative greatness. And where P&G marketers go, others follow. Their presence requires pockets of sensible behaviour, but so far has done little to curb the overall fun.

Let's hope it stays that way. For now, the rise of the corporate side of Cannes is useful. It justifies its cost, but it should never be allowed to cast a shadow over the craziness that the festival also attracts. Cannes is a place of excess. The only safe thing you should practice is sun protection.

Chief executives passed out on the pavement in front of the Gutter Bar, Traktor party revellers being sprayed with Champagne to keep them cool, DDB's entire London creative department squashed on to an inflatable banana while racing around the Med.

Cannes seems to be the last remaining outlet for the outrageous behaviour that has helped shape the ad business over the decades. For one week in 52 Cannes enables adland to pay tribute to its eccentric roots. It would be a terrible shame to kill that off too.

In the past week The Guardian and The Times have made strategically important announcements. Both newspapers have taken the decision to break foreign news, as it happens, online. They will no longer wait until the following day's edition. The "online first" policy is expected to spread to all news coverage over the next two years.

It will have been a very difficult decision to make. It is utterly counter-cultural. News delivery will not be newspapers' raison d'etre, analysis will be.

Of course, there is something of the inevitable in this. These days if you want to be first with the news, you have to break it online. Parallel with this is the newspaper industry's awareness that they have to build strong digital brands if they are going to reserve a place in future reading habits.

Taking the decision, however, may turn out to be have been the easy part.

Making a newspaper essential reading in such time-poor times without delivering the actual news is a tall order. Readers have already begun to shun newspapers, in part because they are simply too busy. Against this backdrop, persuading them to find time for comment and analysis on a daily basis will be challenging.

- Claire Beale is on maternity leave.

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