cannes film festival

Well today’s the final day of the CFF when the panel announces the Palme D’Or. I read too that Quentin Tarrentino will be giving a master class on film-making. Sigh, it all makes me nostalgic for the days when my great mate J and I attended the event with Cellnet and created the greatest 3 day hospitality events in the mobile industry.

J and I were first invited by CR from the company who were  designing and building our exhibition stands. We really enjoyed working with C and it was becoming an increasingly productive relationship. We were discussing a wider range of opportunities including some mobile sales display units and and in-store design service for key dealers. The invitation to Cannes was their way to impress us and I guess to try and lock down the arrangement. The company had against all odds secured the rights to install and manage all the temporary pavillions along the Croisette for the national film industries including the British pavillion etc. The owner of the company had a very close relationship with the local mayor and it meant the guys got AAA passes for all the big events/parties etc.

So we had a real blast. That was the first time I’d seen J in a dj- he looked good as ever! We thought we were just heading to the cinema to watch the night’s premiere – we were but little did we realise we would be heading down the red carpet with all the cast waving to the cheering crowds and smiling for the paparazzi. What a buzz and the thought occured to us that this would make a fantastic once-in-a-lifetime type invitation with which to incentivise our key dealers. But I was some way from controlling the channel at that point and would have to bide my time.

The following year CR invited our wives C and D too as we assessed the event as a  partners’ opportunity. If anything it worked even better as the event was so glamorous. C and D really enjoyed the dressing up and the drama, attending the glitzty parties and meeting all these famous names. We always got on really well and D was always up for a lark. I was hooked on the idea of making this our top incentive event and it wasn’t long after we returned that I was able to convince my Director to give me control of the channel. Until then it had been run by DR – a real character as Head of Sales. I was Head of Marketing but our plans always seemed  to be counter-productive. I argued that none of our competitors could match us if we adopted the mobile equivalent of the total football concept – an integrated complementary programme of impressive activity covering advertising, consumer sales promotions, PR,  PoS, channel management and intelligence gathering, sponsorship, in-store design services, dealer incentive programmes, hospitality, rewards and recognition platforms for the channel, conferences, exhibitions, sales team support and so on. The trick was to keep DR heavily involved fronting many of the activities as we controlled the strategy. And it worked – all of the networks could match elements of our activity but none of them could match the total programme of activity. For the first time we started winning market share month after month. The ultimate incentive was for us to take a dozen or so of the top-performing dealers to Cannes with their partners. DR would host the first 2.5 days and J and I would do the latter part of the event. DR loved it as much as us and we always came away with increased business commitment from our channel partners which has highly successful for the company.

For our guests it always became the ultimate glamorous invitation. Nothing could match it. CR secured us two gentleman’s yachts in the harbour, crewed by a fantastic husband and wife team who looked after us like royalty. The dealer M and his stunning wife S were great guests. S was assumed to be a film starlet wherever we went and of course they both loved it. S and H were just thrilled to be along for the fun. One guy G was a real south London tough nut. His dealership was really dominant in the region and we were only just getting him to move share to us. After this trip we locked him into a major commitment which proved a real signal to the rest of the industry. 100s of dealers fell in behind his lead afterwards. But he didn’t have a regular partner and brought along Ds who was a real fun girl, up for anything but, how can I phrase this, pretty dirty. S and H would come over in the morning fom the other boat to explain that it was impossible to have a shower in peace because G and Ds were at it banging against the walls of the bathroom howling and moaning and crashing around. We’d see her in the morning through the portholes giving G delicate pleasue and she just waved and carried on. We were lined up one night in the main Pavillion awaiting the arrival of the key film guests when she turned to one of us to announce she was pantie-less and dripping! Yep a classy girl but we had some fun with her. The day she goosed CR in his very loose shorts as he was carrying a tray of drinks up the ladder up to the top deck on our boat will live with me for ever.

In fact I’ve got so many  great memories of the event which we did over several years. Swimming off the back of the boats off Cap d’Antibe, the crazy bar at the top of the town called the Petit Carleton full of transvestites, dockers, mobsters and exotic film people. The night there that J pretended to be a major film producer was just brilliant. He had a cluster of  money guys eating from his hand as he put on this act about being the black sheep of an American brewing company who part owned Millwall football club was just the best fun. He announced that he’d lined up John Travolta for a major role and when one of the crowd asked him what it was costing J just raised his hand to show ‘5’ and without saying a word, drew gasps of admiration from these film guys. Speaking Of Travolta, the night we were on the red carpet with all the cast of Pulp Fiction was just fantastic. We were rubbing shoulders with Uma and Tarrantino, Bruce and Samuel. I kid you not. One evening I was bumped into by Catherine Deneuve who I’ve always regarded as just about the sexiest woman alive, as we were waiting for that evening’s main guests to enter the pavillion. Now we both know she did it deliberately even though she was all apologetic. But rather than say something sardonically dry and witty I just babbled something stupid. I have to say she didn’t look at me as if i was George Clooney. The moment passed but I still caught a smile from her. Probably one of pity but who cares.

There was one classic night, I’m sure it was the final evening there, when J and I and another of my great colleagues MR (and regular commentator on this blog) and our wives C, D and J were having a final drink. We’d had a successful trip and all the guests had gone off to bed. It was way past midnight when one of the girls suggested that we go off as separate parties, guys and gals, and see who came in latest. No contest. The girls did well – they were wandering along the beach at 4am before giving up. Still in our dj’s we were having breakfast next morning in a local bar cafe at 9am before returning back to the boat. Stupid but you’re only middle-aged once.

But I think the great night was the evening when Dead Man with Johnny Depp was the film being premiered. It was a total stinker as it happened (see recent comments from MR) but as we were waiting again for him and his entourage to be presented to the panel and a bunch of film and local dignatories, we suddenly noticed that dealer M and his wife S were in the receiving line. M had just blagged his way into the line up. Of course everyone was wearing dj’s and S was looking stunning so they could easily pass for film royalty. So it was that M in his broad Liverpool accent could be heard introducing Johnny to his wife S and inviting Johnny to come and visit them sometime. Johnny was clearly quite taken with them and chatted for ages. You should have seen S’s face. Later that night CR took us all up to the Carleton terrace the place to be seen to be having  post premiere cocktails. However the place was already packed and we were in a large queue (especially as there around 12 of us in the party) with people like Simon and Yasmin le Bon and Sean Lennon and some other muso’s ahead of us and clearly unlikely to let us through first. Nothing CR could do could atract the maitre d’s interest. All of a sudden there was a flurry of activity in the centre of the terrace. Jeremy Beadle (yep!) who was hosting a small table there was asked to move to one side as various flunkies brought some extra tables and chairs in. As the table cloths were laid the maitre d’ summoned us over and sat us down. What an entrance. Simon, Yasmin and Sean looked on open-mouthed and there was a real buzz on the terrace as folks were whispering excitedly at who these big rollers might be.  I’ve never felt so important without actually being so. I turned to CR to ask how he’d engineered it. He had no idea and then I saw M having a quiet chat with the maitre d’ and pass him a little something. CR reckoned it must have taken something close to £1K to get the staff to move like that. I went up to M and he just said to me that after our ‘arranging’ for S to meet her film hero Johnny Depp, this was his way of saying thank you to us and the rest of our party. What style. M became the most committed dealer to the company in the industry.  He also became a close friend in later years. How could you not like a guy with that sense of grace?

So that was Cannes. J and I had a blast every year we did it and I do get wistful around this time. But I never heard what happened to the fragrant  Ds – she’s probably still there…. entertaining the guys at Petit Carleton! We must go and see one day.


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