Editorial: Cannes Do's cause deserves support

Nothing quite provokes a wrestling match between the ad industry and its collective conscience like the Cannes festival. Parties that stretch into the waking hours, drinks until dawn in the Gutter Bar, bar bills in the Martinez high enough to settle the national debt of a small Eastern European state, £60 to hire a lounger for the day. Agency chiefs take a sharp breath, sign the chits, swear they'll never sanction such profligacy again. Until next year.

Cannes is an addictive drug and agencies are junkies. Every year, they swear they'll kick the habit, that next time around they won't be seduced, really they won't.

What, then, is to be made of Cannes Do, a new charity that asks everybody attending the week-long celebration of hedonism to dip into their pockets to help a good cause? Is it a collective-conscience salver? Or can it evolve into a worthwhile initiative that may ultimately benefit the lives of thousands of deprived children throughout the world?

Let's look at it realistically. Charities of all kinds compete in increasingly difficult markets. The National Lottery, together with the massive explosion in the number of charitable causes, is leading to overkill. Small wonder the competition for donations is now of savage intensity.

Indeed, it's a measure of how far charities are prepared to go to prick collective consciences that a poster for Barnardo's showing a cockroach crawling out of a baby's mouth has become the most complained-about campaign in the history of the Advertising Standards Authority.

The fact is that charities must draw in funds from wherever they can and however they can. This may involve pricking the collective consciences of corporations increasingly aware that ethical behaviour now impacts on their bottom line. Or, in the case of the Cannes festival, it's about exploiting the feelings of adfolk who have never really come to reconcile the excesses of the Croisette with the real world.

If adland can't come to terms with its conscience over its sybaritic behaviour at Cannes, then who can blame charities for exploiting its dilemma?

Funds are hard enough to gather as it is. If Cannes guilt can be turned into hard cash for a worthy cause, then so be it.

Initially sceptical about the Cannes Do initiative, the festival organisers have indicated their willingness to embrace it. And a good thing too.

Cannes will always be a week of conspicuous consumption, when adfolk over-indulge themselves and suffer the guilt for some time afterwards. If such guilt can be channelled into aiding some 60,000 at-risk children in Brazilian slums or provide a better life for downtodden families in Bolivia, then so be it.

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