THE BLOG
06/21/2006 04:32 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Anal Sex, Iraq, Brand Loyalty and Other Topics from the Cannes Advertising Festival

It's a multi-accented advertising orgy all this week as the ad world takes over Cannes for the 53rd Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival -- a high-energy mashup of screenings, workshops, seminars, schmoozing, deal making, and awards ceremony.

I flew all night to get here, arriving in Nice at 8:30 this morning. By 9:15 I was in Cannes, showering and changing at the Majestic Hotel, where the minibar includes plug adaptors for recharging my Blackberry and iPod. At 10:15 I was met in the lobby by Craig Davis, ad giant JWT's Chief Creative Officer and the moderator of the panel discussion I was there to take part in, "From the Makers of Pop Culture."

We walked across the street to the sprawling Palais des Festivals et des Congres complex where the festival is being held and headed backstage where I met up with my fellow panelists Martin Sheen and Sex and the City's Michael Patrick King, plus Bob Jeffrey, JWT's CEO. Everything was going so smoothly that my superstitious Greek peasant brain started waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop -- this was all too effortless, something had to go wrong.

Then I looked at the goody table that had been laid out -- and my heart skipped a beat. There was no coffee -- just cherries and grapes, which I love but which are not exactly the pick-me-up needed after an all-night flight. The seminar took place in the gorgeous Debussy Auditorium, the same theater where "The Da Vinci Code" premiered during the Cannes film festival.

In his introductory remarks, Davis charted the Brave New Media World that advertisers are facing -- saying that the marketing landscape has become "a consumer driven phenomenon" in which the audience "is no longer in a commercial-induced stupor. They're awake. And they're empowered. In one hand they've got a remote control for the TV and TiVo. In the other, a mouse. Propped up before them, a BlackBerry. Jammed in their ears, an iPod. So many ways they have to say 'no' to us..."

He then laid out the task facing advertisers and their clients: "Advertising must be as interesting as all that other stuff. The challenge for us all is to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in."

We'll be posting a streaming version of the whole discussion on HuffPost later today, but for now let me just say this: Michael Patrick King, already a big favorite of mine as a writer and director (and as a HuffPost blogger -- though he's only done it once so far!), is now my all-time favorite panelist too.

When he was asked, apropos of Sex and the City's infamous anal sex episode, about critics who say that women don't talk like they did on his show, King responded, "Women would talk like that if they had a writing staff."

I fear this panel virgin may now, due to popular demand, spend the rest of his life doing panels instead of coming up with the next Sex and the City.

Sheen drew one of the biggest responses of the morning when, asked about commercial pressures on broadcasters, he replied that "the only time the network got in my face was when I publicly protested to war in Iraq." The crowd cheered.

At then end of the session, Davis asked each of us what five words of advice we'd give to advertisers.

Sheen quoted James Cagney: "Don't get caught at it."

King said, "Reflect life in exciting new ways," then quickly added, "I know that is six words not five but that's my point to you: Push what is asked for just a little bit."

For my five, I went back to Craig's comment about the need to change ads from interruptions to things people actually enjoy and said: "Make coitus interruptus the real intercourse." Okay, that was also six words (I was taking Michael's advice to heart)... and no one seemed to mind.

More to come on the panel and the rest of the festival tomorrow...

panel6-21.jpg