As day four of the Cannes Lions festival draws to a close, it’s time to wipe away the winners announcements, put aside the insights, leave behind the learnings and concentrate instead on the one thing that binds us all together: celebrities.
The last two days have seen some serious star power lighting up seminars in the Debussy theatre. On Tuesday Digitas hosted a seminar billed as 'Advertising’s most brutal debate': five three-minute rounds of blood-on-the-floor combat. In a cage. With Paula Abdul. This I had to see.
Other combatants were Nick Cannon (actor, comedian, rapper, television personality, chairman of TeenNick and in his spare time the husband of Mariah Carey), Gavin Polone (producer of Zombieland and Curb Your Enthusiasm) and film director Monty Miranda (Skills Like This). Wily protagonists all, but my money was on Abdul. She’s got crazy on her side.
The moot for the debate was ‘brand interruption VS brand integration’. Already the fight felt rigged. Interruption is a lumbering old heavyweight, well past its prime – George Foreman without a lean, mean grillin’ machine. Integration was the new kid on the block. Nimble. Street-smart. Hungry for success and ready to knock the old guard to the canvas.
The theatre was packed and a hushed expectancy over the audience as Mark Beeching, CCO of Digitas and Ring Announcer made his way to the stage. In breathless fashion he introduced the pugilists, including Paula Abdul ... who couldn’t make it due to a family commitment. Deflated, I had a sudden vision of her laying comatose out back, an empty bottle of hard liquor clutched in her hand. Comforting as that thought was, I knew that I would never know the real truth behind her no-show. In her place, rapper and actor Common stepped into the ring and the bell rang. As expected it wasn’t even close. ‘brand integration’ ran away with an easy majority points decision, with Gavin Polone landing the heaviest, most telling blows.
Later that day Yahoo! hosted ‘Laugh, Connect and Debate’ with Elisa Steele, chief marketing officer for Yahoo!, moderating a discussion with Ben Stiller and Jeff Goodby of Goodby, Silverstein and Partners. Stiller was in free-wheeling, wise-cracking form and he finished with a brace of ‘Blue Steel’ poses for the audience and cameras. I don’t know how much we learned, but the audience certainly filed out of the theatre feeling entertained.
Today’s keynote address featured a different sort of celebrity entirely; 26-year-old Facebook founder and media man of the moment Mark Zuckerberg. Far from being a techno geek web weenie, Zuckerberg had the audience eating out of his hands like an old media pro. Amongst other topics he talked about the challenges confronting Facebook, including optimising Facebook for a mobile and increasingly personalised, region-specific future (clearly the fast-growing Four Square is on his radar). He also hinted that a Facebook IPO might be on the cards later this year. It was hard not to be impressed by Zuckerberg. He was confident (without being arrogant), articulate, enthusiastic, insightful and waaay smarter than Derek Zoolander. Just not as really really good looking.