A view from Robert Senior

Perspective: Clients are welcome in Cannes as long as they bring creativity

I'm sitting in the cheap seats on my return flight from Cannes, gathering my senses to fashion an account man's perspective on this year's revelry.

My concentration is being interrupted by an unwelcome series of funny turns. As a result, this column will be high on brevity and low on stylistic finery.

I have two basic observations. First, that last year's Credit Crunch Cannes is a dim and distant, yet pleasant, memory - when hardly anyone was there and when getting a drink at the Carlton Terrace was a breeze.

This year, the numbers were back - and, according to the jury members that I spoke with, so too was the aggregate quality of the entries. But, under closer inspection, something has changed in the make-up of the numbers from previous years.

Which brings me to my second observation. I couldn't help feeling that the younger, idealistic, creative purists (there to soak up the atmosphere, the creativity and the booze) have in part been replaced by a new and growing breed of client.

Of course, having a strong client representation at Cannes can only be a good thing - essential, in fact.

We are, after all, "partners" in the pursuit of game-changing creative ideas (at least until procurement gets involved) and the quality of these partnerships defines the quality of their resulting creative output.

But this new breed are not necessarily adding value, at least not yet. I refer to those client companies that use Cannes as an opportune event around which all manner of "global meetings" are arranged and who are loosely in the market for "creative inspiration". They are lavish with promotional tents strategically placed for maximum traffic (although through their execution deliver minimum impact) and quick on the draw with the latest soundbite.

There is a sharp divide between the aforementioned group, who if anything are dilutive to the festival's purpose, and those client companies who not only bring their people to Cannes but also their brand's creativity - their creative contribution to the past, and with that their implicit commitment to the future.

I'm talking about those clients who have shown their metal - then collected some. This is a self-evident group and the real heroes of Cannes.

It is in everyone's interest to keep our creative talent as inspired and ambitious with their ideas as possible, so perhaps it is therefore in everyone's interest to ensure the client presence acts as an inspiration through the work they represent in addition to the queues at the bar they create.

And perhaps Cannes is something to be earned rather than gifted - the age-old moral contract of give and take.

- Robert Senior is the UK chief executive of the SSF Group.

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