Cannes: Cannes on a shoestring

Recession and a lavish 'jolly' in the South of France don't mix. Two Cannes stalwarts tell how they will approach the festival this year.


The Cannes experience will be different this year.

I'm writing this a good month in advance of the event, so I don't have the advantage of actually being there.

But, am I right when I say...

Many of the "fixture" parties have been cancelled. You turn up at the boat or beach, but no-one is at home, apart from those who actually are at home - French people. This, in turn, has led to even longer and deeper queues (you thought it wasn't possible) at the Carlton Terrace.

Cannes this year feels a bit more "underground". A few are trying the "keeping up appearances" strategy, but the majority are in the "slightly embarrassed and guilty to be larging-it-up" category.

So, more private and modest soirees are taking place in new, discreet locations, away from prying eyes and camera lenses. If you're not nodding at this point, they are happening, it's just that you haven't been invited.

This Cannes will also feel less Anglo-Saxon than ever before (and will be none the worse for it). After all, there's no need for guilt if you've jetted in from China or Brazil as there's no recession there, merely an easing of growth. So, there will be a greater number of "new Cannites" from further afield.

Meanwhile, our corporate approach, and my own, will be on a small and personal scale. Not for M&C Saatchi are the grand extravagances of the multinational groups. I will merely have two or three lunches and dinners at the Eden Roc, while staying at the Hotel du Cap with my wife joining me for Friday and Saturday.

Now, before you reach for the phone to rat on me to our shareholders and non-executive directors - the company will not pay for one penny of this. I've been reading the papers and have seen what happens to people who put through questionable expense forms.

I love the Hotel du Cap - the 60s Riviera glamour, the food, the wine and the ridiculous cost, and the small matter of a global recession is not going to get in my way.

The important bit is then to descend from the "stars" of the Hotel du Cap to the Gutter Bar.

I will be astounded and disappointed not to see the usual suspects along La Croisette in the early hours of the morning, boys and girls behaving badly.

See you there later.


I have very mixed feelings about Cannes. Part of me loves it, part of me has to do it as a corporate duty, and part of me finds it really rather unattractive.

Let's just talk about the duty bit first. For the big international agencies, Cannes has become more than just an important awards ceremony. It's become a time when senior management from across the globe get together to discuss their problems. This led to one of my stranger meetings in Cannes. At the time, I had a delicate matter to discuss with Massimo (who is this very cool, handsome Italian chap), the Y&R head of Europe. We had arranged to meet on the Carlton Terrace, but it was crammed with agency folk and no place to chat about anything you didn't want to be the talk of the Gutter Bar. Massimo turned to me and said: "Let's go. We do the meeting Italiano style in the sea."

"But I have not got any shorts," I whimpered.

"No problemo, we go shopping," he replied, and off we marched. The next half-an-hour found us like a middle-aged gay couple finding me a suitable pair of shorts. Then off we trotted to the Carlton beach and into the sea. And so there I found myself, this white blobby bloke, bobbing at sea with my boss who looks like one of the Mafia, fresh out of an Israeli army training course, trying to have a top-secret conversation while not being washed out to sea.

It was one of the most surreal corporate moments I've had in Cannes.

The things I love about Cannes are fairly obvious. Who would complain at being in the South of France, eating in some of the best and most beautiful restaurants in the world, hanging out with a load of your mates and drinking copious amounts of rose in the Gutter Bar?

Which leads me to the things I find a little unattractive. Some of these are the same as the things I love. Sadly, I'm not sure any industry en masse is that attractive. I hate the groundhog day feeling you get when you find yourself standing in the Gutter Bar again at four o'clock in the morning, still having the same nonsensical conversation. And I worry at times that we take being spoilt this much for granted.

But I think that may be changing, given where the world is, and this year Cannes could be a far more sombre affair, more about the work and less about the parties. Which, in the end, may be no bad thing.

SAVING THE PENNIES IN CANNES - Alex Benady's top tips on how to enjoy a Champagne festival on lemonade money

Credit crunch, economic downturn and unfavourable exchange rates have conspired to make Cannes so hideously unaffordable this year that many agencies have been forced into that most beastly of all acts: controlling their spending.

With a no-holds-barred week at the adfest costing as much as five, six, or even seven grand of shareholders' money, many are simply giving it a miss. Organisers reckon that bookings could be down by as much as 25 per cent.

But for others, the need to network within the network, build camaraderie within the department and make passes at drunken PR girls is just too great. They have to go. They just have to be a little more careful about their spending, that's all.

If you're selfish, mean and not too fussy about ethics, personal hygiene or safety, we reckon that you could do the full week and still have change from £400. Here's how.

1. Don't attend

Dur. Only swots and neeks actually attend the festival. With a seven-day ticket priced at EUR2,601.30, you can see why. Thankfully, entry to the city itself is still free. If you must, have one nominated agency attendee, so the rest of you can develop cirrhosis and work on your melanomas in peace.

But if there's something wrong with you and you really want to attend, then your best bet is to go as "a companion" to another delegate, for an extra EUR776. Mind you, the prospect of seven days (and nights) as Gerry Moira's bitch won't be to everyone's taste.

2. Don't fly the flag

At the time of writing, Air France was offering return flights from London to Nice from £342. British Airways was charging from £196, while easyJet's £77 is less than the cab fare from the airport.

So McCann Erickson, Publicis, Euro RSCG and all clients will be flying Air France. Bartle Bogle Hegarty will be flying BA. The rest of us will be flying easyJet - hand luggage only, no insurance, no early boarding, no lunch. No brainer.

3. No le taxi

Is it a coincidence that all Cannois taxis are Mercedes? Non. At around EUR5 a click, French taxi drivers are the only people on the planet who can still afford a festival in Cannes. Avoid them at all costs.

But this doesn't mean taking the helicopter into town from the airport. Nor does it mean sharing a cab from the airport - that'll still cost EUR50 return. It doesn't even mean taking the bus at EUR14 a trip. It means schlepping your rucksack over to the Gare Nice St Augustin, seven minutes from the airport, and catching a train for just EUR5.

4. Camp it up

Fabulous news. Festival organisers have arranged 75 per cent off rooms at the Majestic. Now a week will only cost you EUR1,800. Instead, rent a luxury flat at Villa Montebello on Boulevard De La Republique from EUR45 per person a night. Or try a cheaper hotel such as Chanteclair in Rue Forville from EUR30 a night. "You'll only use it for falling into a coma. Which will be a mercy," one former guest says. If that's still too expensive, pack up the agency tent and head off to Camping Parc Bellevue, just a few minutes ride by jet fighter from La Croisette, where you can mince and squirm to your heart's content, from E8 a night.

5. Fill your dance card in advance

At some point in your week, you may want to eat. You could hit Monoprix and loot a packet of whatever processed slop your agency happens to advertise. Or the Marche Forville sells delicious fresh local fruit, vegetables and charcuterie.

A better plan, Mark Roalfe, the chairman and executive creative director at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, says, is to dedicate quality time in advance to securing invites to an endless round of parties. But you'll need to work extra hard this year because so many have been cut. "Production and post-production parties tend to be in the afternoon. Network parties tend to be in the evening. Plan it right and the only meal you should pay for is breakfast," the veteran ligger advises.

6. Flirt shamelessly/turn tricks

Let's say you find yourself being harassed late one night by a couple of persistent leather queens who won't take "non" for an answer. Under no circumstances should you do what two of adland's beefiest did in the Gutter Bar a couple of years ago and threaten to break their fucking faces. Rather, dazzle them with your Hugh Grant-like charm. Laugh at their silly little foreign jokes. Affect interest in their careers. Agree to ride on their choppers. At worst, you'll get a free drink. At best, you'll get free accommodation for the night. And you won't have to worry about food, because you can't eat with your mouth full.

7. Become a judge

Do your political skills make Machiavelli seem naive? Are you venal, mindlessly patriotic and swift to come to arbitrary decisions? Good. You'll make a fantastic judge. And as a judge, you get free meals and accommodation - you just pay for your flight. There are 214 judges this year, so it can't be that difficult. But it does need a bit of planning. Happily, you can nominate yourself, so start lobbying your country rep in November when festival organisers draw up their jury shortlists. You have to have won an award in the past, you have to be "well regarded" and you have to speak English.

8. Mug Steve Stretton

A Mr S Stretton of Archibald Ingall Stretton writes in to suggest that a good way to save money at Cannes is to "steal drinks in the Gutter Bar". Nice tip, Steve. You'll need a friend to work this one. While it is neither clever nor funny, it goes like this. Approach Steve in the Gutter Bar, Morrison's Irish Pub (10 Rue Teissere) or Club Aphrodite. You tell him how much you admire his recent flyer for City & Guilds/O2/whatever. His face will light up. While he is momentarily dazzled by his own brilliance, your mate nicks his pint.

9. The Saturday-night special

If you've been tight enough all week, you might just have a few cents left for a slap-up meal on Saturday night. But where? To The Carlton, perhaps, where chef Laurent Bunel "prepares seasonal dishes in a light, simple way"? That is, he peels a papaya and flogs it for EUR90 a shot. I don't think so, Laurent.

Avoid most of the restaurants along the front except L'Assiette d'Provencal, where the E21 prix fix is almost edible. Or walk past Le Sofitel to the beach restaurants that serve mostly locals. Moira suggests trudging up the hill to the old town where you can fill your face at places like the double dinky Suquet Restaurant (24 Rue du Suquet) for about E40.

10. Win an award

Most clients will be so pathetically grateful if your work for them wins, or is even shortlisted, that they'll pay for you to attend. It's a long shot, but worth serious consideration.