Stefano Hatfield on Advertising

Glasses clink, champagne flows as Cannes glugs away the gloom
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The Independent Online

First, a couple of apologies: for not being my mercurial, excellent predecessor in this space, Mark Wnek, and having nothing against Campaign magazine (which I once edited), the estimable John Tylee and the half of London advertising that are not "friends of Mark".

First, a couple of apologies: for not being my mercurial, excellent predecessor in this space, Mark Wnek, and having nothing against Campaign magazine (which I once edited), the estimable John Tylee and the half of London advertising that are not "friends of Mark".

The second is for those of you expecting a serious analysis of the past week's Cannes International Advertising Festival winners: I have to write this before I know who won, but Honda "grrr" is unquestionably the most extraordinary commercial produced in the world this past year.

This is the first Cannes festival since EMAP acquired the event from the controversial Frenchman Roger Hatchuel for an eye-watering $96m. The differences for the 8,000 delegates are subtle but telling. It's all "more professional". Old-timers are bizarrely nostalgic about the lost quirkiness, arrogance and general oleaginous demeanour of the old event.

For once in France the talk, even among Americans, is of French advertising. Not the work, of course, other than to marvel at how many different ways you can get a naked woman into an ad. The Martinez Hotel, where the French hang out (the Americans hang out at the Carlton Hotel, the Brits at the appropriately-named "gutter bar") was buzzing with the ousting of Havas chairman Alain de Pouzilhac by Vincent Bollore. And with perfect timing for Cannes gossips, it appears Jean Marie Dru, the erudite and charming worldwide chief executive officer (CEO) of Omnicom's TBWA will succeed de Pouzilhac.

No one can confirm the appointment yet, but Omnicom friends told me that Dru and Omnicom CEO John Wren were involved in an extremely heated conversation on the Croisette earlier in the week. Expect to see Dru, who did not want to live long-term in New York, at Havas soon. London's Paul Bainsfair is the favourite to succeed him in the Big Apple. Meanwhile, Dru's face welcoming guests on the freebie T-shirts at the TBWA party on Thursday night was either extremely unfortunate or the joke of the week.

CANNES WEEK'S NOTORIOUS parties are normally an excellent barometer of the health of the ad industry. This year however, this is a particularly sensitive subject. Some of the agencies spending a minor fortune this week on impossibly glamorous events are actually involved in rounds of lay-offs and wage freezes. Some of their own staff at those very parties were publicly bitter about it - before ordering another freebie glass of champagne.

The stand-outs were the Lowe party at La Napoule which was elegant and sophisticated; and the Publicis party, which abandoned last year's venue (Pierre Cardin's villa) for the world's most beautifully located nightclub, Le Baioli. It rocked, helped by bar- staff flown in for the night from London's Met Bar. The TBWA beach party was a heaving mess, as were JWT's and Crispin Porter's smaller events at the crazed "gutter bar". Friday night, DDB's traditional beach thrash competed with Leo Burnett's new glitzy affair complete with Stephane Pampougnac, the Costes Hotel DJ, and Norman Jay MBE. The classiest affair was the private McCann party on the Christina O yacht.

SIR MARTIN SORRELL, the WPP boss, is the kind of man who wouldn't have been seen dead in the old Cannes. Sorrell was in town to debate the future of advertising with New York Post boss Lachlan Murdoch and others. In the old days, creatives viewed him as the enemy. So I was worried when I saw him with a serious shiner on his right eye. Sorrell insisted this was not down to an embittered former enemy, Alain de Pouzilhac, or... (the list is long). He told me it was a cricket wound, incurred when trying to hook what he insisted was "a quickie". I didn't push it, because we were surrounded by Americans who didn't have a clue what we were on about.

ONE NIGHT AT the Carlton Hotel in a room with a sea view: €550; bottle of Domaine Ott rose wine on the see-and-be-seen Carlton Beach Terrace at lunchtime: €50 ; fleeting look of absolute horror on the face of Publicis London chairman, Tim Lindsay, when told by a joking French waitress (who knew?) that his corporate credit card had bounced? Priceless!

ONLY IN CANNES. Robert Campbell, executive creative director, McCann-Erickson London, is a little faux world-weary and shy of strangers. Lotta Malm Hallqvist, marketing bigwig at the same agency is, um, less so. While she was trying to force Campbell to go off and do an interview with an important Scandinavian financial publication, we tried our best to impress her by actually naming a Swedish paper, Aftonbladet. "Don't be ridiculous!" she barked with the venom she usually reserves for leery German account men. "Psssh!, it's for the FT of Norway!" Campbell, of course, did what he was told. Well, it was funny at the time.

THERE'S A WHOLE lotta Lotta, who is one of the stars of the festival this year. This total Swedish stereotype blonde, gym-queen supermum lives up to her quite extraordinary job title - executive vice president chief growth officer EMEA. You can be the judge of how McCann is currently doing, but Lotta is 5ft 10in!

ONE OF THE joys of my five years in New York has been getting to know the doyen of American advertising journalists, Stuart Eliott of The New York Times, a man big enough in my early days to help an ignorant Brit wade through the treacle of Madison Avenue - even though I was technically a rival. Stuart was never allowed abroad by the stingy Times (OK, Bermuda), and would lament that despite writing his column day in, day out for 50 years, he had never been to Cannes. Well, Stuart is here this year. Unbelievably, he had to pay his own way and take a busman's holiday for the pleasure of hanging out with messrs Sorrell and Wren. On day one he was in a summer suit and tie gawping wide-mouthed at the gutter bar. By day five he was in Hawaiian shirt and shorts and hoarse from a 4am gutter bar experience. Don't write a word for the tight bastards Stuart.

WICKED WHISPERS (well, I am now a tabloid journalist after all): which well-known married agency PR woman has been openly cavorting around Cannes with a very well-known American... oops, I nearly forgot the golden rule of Cannes: what goes on in Cannes, stays in Cannes.

THOSE OF YOU missing Mark Wnek's column (hello Sally, Dan-Dan and Gus Wnek, and Mark's godmother Beryl) may want to know how the great man is getting on without Garry Lace, John Tylee and his other column fodder. Well, here's a clue. After beginning day one at 7.30am with a crash course in the American car market (pun maybe intended), on day two in New York he took a flight to delightful Detroit City to have an introductory meeting in the NorthWest Airlines executive club lounge with a very important new General Motors client, and then flew back again for a dinner event. As a result of which, guess which leading Brit Cannes regular - who, despite appearances in this column is actually one of the nicest men you will ever meet - is absent from this year's festivities because he has to attend focus groups in LA and burn the midnight oil trying to crack a campaign in a few weeks? And, dealing with all the politics of the Interpublic Group? And, that, all you jealous types who have Wnek in NYC envy, is why he gets paid the big bucks! Cheers!

The writer is senior editor, Metro International and a former editor of Campaign