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Cannes: Advice for a Cannes virgin

Cannes veteran Gerry Moira reveals how to survive the Croisette with your bank balance, liver and dignity intact.

Get any group of Cannes' vets together, guys with upwards of ten tours under their ever-expanding belts, and things get a little hazy. Eyes get misty, gazes are averted, sentences go unfinished. Sometimes there is dribble. People say Cannes is like the 60s; if you can remember them, you weren't really there. They say Cannes isn't really a place, it's a state of mind. Others that Cannes is the lover you never really get over. Me, I just wonder how I'm going to pad this piece out to 1,000 words.

Let's start at the beginning. My first memories of Cannes involve drinking rough pastis with F Scott Fitzgerald and the local fishermen on the beach of this sleepy seaside village. Francis had just adapted an unfinished novella of his called The Ring of Confidence into a worldwide campaign for Colgate toothpaste. Always insecure about his work, this most fragile of writers insisted on showing his reel to anyone and everyone and we would project the Colgate spots on to the canvas sails of the "langoustiers" pulled up on to the beach. Thus, the Cannes Advertising Festival began its journey from an informal gathering of like-minded artisans to the bloated trade fair it now resembles.

Why then do I return "comme la phalene a la flamme?" In a word, weakness. The old whore of La Croisette has thrust her hand down my trousers and I feel the tug of her boney fingers every June, dragging me back despite my better judgment and the tearful entreaties of my chief financial officer. "The T&E budget cannae stand it Gezza," he blurts. "Out of my way fool, I have a 'chambre avec vue de mer' at The Majestic and an appointment with a large sea bass and some hollandaise sauce," I counter, prising his surprisingly tenacious fingers from my calf and striding toward the waiting cab. Why too do I keep agreeing to write these Cannes guides for Campaign? I have, as they say, pretty much "shot my knowledge" of this event over the past couple of years. Perhaps a list of Don'ts might be as instructive as my previous lists of Dos?

Don't assume that French bar staff share our love of pub games. Take the exhilarating indoor sport of Pirates, for example. The cat-like agility with which an alcohol-impaired Brit can circumnavigate a large hotel bar without touching the floor has earned us the envy and admiration of most of the Western world. Not so the taciturn staff of the Martinez hotel as the sudden removal of the last bar-stool on my lap of honour in '94 surely testifies.

Don't turn up at the Gutter Bar before Wednesday. And never before midnight. There is some question now as to whether to patronise this over-priced, over-stuffed watering hole at all. Like the Cote d'Azur itself, the Gutter Bar was invented by the English. We colonised this tiny bar when the next door Martinez became overrun by giant blonde people from Northern Europe. If you are unsure how many of your fellow countrymen are in attendance, just look out for the pink ones who smell faintly of Boots after-sun, Blue Harbour linen and sick.

Don't go on the Carlton pier. Unless you earn upwards of a million dollars per annum. The Carlton is where the big swinging dicks of Madison Avenue hang out. Sunning yourself on the pontoon of this wedding cake hotel is like spending too long in an episode of The Sopranos.

"Tony you fockin' cocksucker, you look like a fockin' million bucks baby." " No kiddin' Al, I just spent a fockin' million bucks on my ex-wife. Love your Pepsi spot by the way, was it Pytka? Smokin' Joe eh? Fockin' Ayyy." Prolonged exposure to this can lead to severe package envy.

Don't go to the Final Awards Ceremony. Unless you're "walking", try to avoid this undignified, over-subscribed scrum. Much better to slip quietly into the shortlist. The truly original and inspiring are often eliminated at this stage.

Don't talk to the tall women who mysteriously appear in the shadowy clefts of the Croisette at three in the morning. They don't love you and they're not women.

Don't pay for food. There are people who have paid to come out to Cannes to buy you lunch and it is frankly offensive to them to see you filling your own face with frites when you could be sitting opposite them at the Colombe D'Or, asking polite questions about their showreel. There maybe a few, regrettable, occasions when you have to buy your own drink but please leave "l'addition s'il vous plait" business to the professionals.

Don't confuse proximity with friendship. None of the creative stars you find in the Gutter Bar, or indeed the gutter itself, wants (a) to be your mate, (b) buy you a drink, (c) see your book.

They only talk to (a) each other, (b) headhunters, (c) Campaign. None of the above applies if you are (a) attractive, (b) twins, (c) armed.

Don't forget: "What goes on in Cannes, stays in Cannes."

There is a tendency for certain agency alpha males to "go bonobo" as soon as they hit the beach. Recording these momentary moral lapses on one's mobile is not the act of a gentleman.

Don't forget to have fun.

- Gerry Moira is the chairman and director of creativity at EuroRSCG London.

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