Meribel Ad Festival: The Meribel Experience

In the second week of December - just before the Christmas holiday season is upon us - a rare advertising treat awaits in a chic and charmant Trois Vallees ski resort: the Meribel Festival de la Publicite.

2007 is the Festival's seventh year. And, as I've attended the last three, I may even qualify as a Meribel veteran. I'll certainly own up to being an aficionado.

France, for a start, is a very hot and happening advertising market. It's come third or equal third (after the US and the UK) in the Gunn Report's countries league table every year from 2003 to 2006. The country's most creative agencies are also the biggest and most successful: and Meribel is a must for everyone who is anybody in French advertising. Not just agency folks, by the way: there is an equally comprehensive contingent of top clients and the media are also strongly represented.

What's more, since 2004, Christian Cappe, the founder of the Festival, and his exuberant young team have targeted delegates and entries from the rest of Europe with considerable success.

Among the good things Meribel has going for it is the timing. Falling at the end of the year and with a relatively short entry deadline, it's a show where the serial award winners of the coming year often debut. For instance, I saw Sony Bravia "balls", Canal+ "Le Marche de l'Empereur" and Honda "impossible dream" for the first time at Meribel.

Plus, in my case, it's the first major gathering of ad folk following the publication of the annual Gunn Report and Showreel of The Year. Hence, at the Festival's invitation, I present Certificates for the most awarded Agency, Network, Advertiser and Production Company in Europe on the stage on the Friday night.

If you're a networker, it's a particularly congenial and conducive environment in which to network - not just at the ever-heaving Pavillon de la Pub (the Festival's hub) but also at lunches up the mountains, the wall-to-wall drinks parties and even, if your eyes are still open by then, Le Loft.

If you're out to take some new ideas and information aboard, there's Cristal-Lab. A top-notch programme of seminars, round tables and presentations - last year, Kevin Roberts was top of the bill, this year, it's Sir John Hegarty.

Oh, yes, I nearly forgot. Although it's the week before the official opening of the ski station, nearly all the lifts are operating, there's loads of snow on the upper slopes, snowblowers are working (if needed) on the runs down to the village and the pistes are virtually empty. (And the delegate fee includes ski pass, and hire of skis and boots, which is a rather nice touch.)

All in all, if this sounds to you like it might be a particularly agreeable experience at the end of the year, as well as a seriously useful investment of your professional time, you'd be dead right about that. And, if that's the case, I'll see you on the slopes.

- Donald Gunn, who is Scottish, joined Leo Burnett in London, fresh from Cambridge University, in 1962. Gunn worked as an account executive for six years, before becoming a copywriter. He subsequently served as Burnett's managing director in the Netherlands and Switzerland, and creative director in South Africa and France. In 1984, Gunn was appointed as Leo Burnett's director of creative resources worldwide. In this job, based in Chicago, he created several Burnett institutions that are the envy of the industry - including the Great Commercials Library and the Global Product Committee - as well as spearheading the worldwide study on creativity and effectiveness, Do Award-Winning Commercials Sell?. He became dubbed by Ad Age as "the man with the best job in advertising". After retirement from Burnett, Gunn served for two years - 1998 and 1999 - as the president of the Cannes Festival. Also in 1999, Gunn launched the annual Gunn Report and Showreel of the Year, which seems to have caught on worldwide as "the official" measure of competitive excellence for the advertising industry. Gunn and his wife, Sarah, and three children, Sophie, George, and Henry, live near Chichester in the south of England.