Some people might object to their city being overrun by hordes of lairy adlanders every year – but not the Mayor of Cannes, Bernard Brochand. He’s not just thinking of the city’s coffers, either – for him, the International Festival of Creativity is a family reunion. Brochand entered politics after a career in advertising, during which time he rose to international president of DDB. The 75-year-old will step down from politics in 2014 after 13 years. Here, he talks about the industry’s most prestigious bash.
How has the advertising festival changed over the years?
There has been a lot of movement and change in advertising over the past six years. When I was a member of the jury, it was just cinema and TV work competing for the prizes. That was 20-25 years ago. After that, new technologies arrived and the festival has adapted itself to that, but it’s something that is much more difficult to judge.
And I believe that the people making ads with new technology now have not yet done what we did in the 70s, when there was a real revolution in advertising in terms of creativity. For instance, what we were doing with the 45-second spots, where the creativity was immediately perceived. That’s not exactly the case when you look on the internet now. Not a lot of people are looking on the web for what is the ad of the year. It’s still an important investment and, every year, more people are investing in that kind of media. But, at the same time, the TV spot resists quite well to the new approach.
How much money does the advertising festival make for the city?
If you take all the festivals together, they are worth around €850 million a year. The film festival is worth around €200 million and the advertising festival is worth between €70 million and €100 million, depending on its success.
Is it true that more is spent in bars during the advertising festival than at any other time of year?
It’s not a soccer match, my friend; it’s not the European Cup! But it’s true that there’s an event every night on the beach. And when you look at the advertising festival, most of the people are very young and Cannes is a luxury city, where there is life and sun. It’s a paradise and that’s why you see things that are crazy but original and creative, and that is the spirit of the city at the time.
What does the city do with all the money that the festivals bring in?
The budget of the city of Cannes is very high. We are a city of 150,000 people, but we have 3.5 million tourists coming in every year. The budget for Cannes is €650 million, so we can do a lot of things. Since I’ve been here, I’ve done everything to make the city more beautiful and more attractive and to help the needs of people. For sure, there is a crisis and we are not as bright as we were beforehand, but we are not suffering like the other cites in the world are suffering. When you come to Cannes, you don’t feel the crisis.
How do you spend your time when the advertising festival is on?
My friends in advertising always come to see me. Even the board of Procter & Gamble, where I was an account manager, come and see me because they are surprised that an adman can become the Mayor of Cannes. They are more proud of me than I am of myself! So they come and see me and ask me if I’m happy to be mayor and whether I’d like to come back to advertising. For me, it’s a big family meeting.
What was your favourite memory from your time in advertising?
I launched Budweiser in China. At that time, I was rushed to adapt the campaign, which was a great success in the States, for the Chinese mentality and it was such an interesting way to do something. That’s the kind of thing that you are proud of.
Have you seen any ads recently that you have really liked?
My problem is that I’m not looking at ads very often, but I’m always very fond of English advertising.
What is Cannes like when there is no festival on?
Cannes is what you’d call a garden city. We were colonised in 1935 by the English, who brought plants from Australia, India, Egypt and other places, and so that changed the vegetation. So we are a green city and have the sea and the sun. It’s unbelievable.
Can you ever envisage the Lions ad festival being held anywhere else?
No way. No way, my friend.