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The Insider Guide to Cannes

For Cannes Lions 2018, seasoned delegate Jason Foo tells us where to go and what to see in between networking, co-working and glasses of rosé.

Jason Foo, CEO at BBD Perfect Storm

Jason Foo, CEO at BBD Perfect Storm.

This month, between 18 and 22 June, over 16,000 creative brains will gather in the South of France for Cannes Lions, the world’s biggest festival and awards for the communications, design and technology industries. Seasoned delegate Jason Foo, CEO of advertising agency BBD Perfect Storm, shares his Riviera favourites with THE STAND.

I haunt the place in June, along with the rest of the ad industry who go there for Cannes Lions, advertising’s biggest awards festival. It used to be just for creative advertising people, but not any more – tech companies and consultancies have the money to spend on yachts, parties and the obligatory rosé these days.

Where I stay varies. Sometimes it’s the Hôtel Martinez, at other times a private villa or an Airbnb. If you’re going to survive the week, you need air conditioning and to be a 15-minute walk from La Croisette – where it all happens.

Don’t expect to switch off during Cannes Lions – the whole place turns into one giant co-working space

The day kicks off with breakfast at Volupté. Their coffee will revive the dead – or anyone in recovery from a night on the terrace at the Carlton, which is like the mother ship during Cannes Lions week. It’s somewhere you have to appear at least once in the evening to soak up gossip and rosé in equal measure.

If you want to keep up with your workouts, there are often fitness sessions on the beach, but you could also take an early-morning run up La Croisette, through the park and along the harbour wall – even though it sometimes means dodging people who are still up from the night before.

Hotel Martinez, Cannes.

Hotel Martinez, Cannes.

Don’t expect to switch off during Cannes Lions – the whole place turns into one giant co-working space. If you need to sit down with a laptop, ad agency Havas hosts a café conveniently situated on La Croisette, with free Wi-Fi and snacks – as long as you can get yourself on the list.

There’s no time for day trips, but a 45-minute drive gets you to La Colombe d’Or in Saint-Paul de Vence, which offers a beautiful garden, great food and some well-earned peace. Matisse, Miró and Picasso used to dine here regularly, and their paintings adorn the walls.

The only two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Cannes is La Palme d’Or at the Hôtel Martinez. Try chef Christian Sinicropi’s seafood dishes – the rosemary and aniseed-scented bluefin tuna belly is sublime. If you want a safe haven away from the nuttiness of La Croisette, stroll through the winding streets of the old town to Le Manoir. The food is traditional French, and the wine list as long as your arm. And if you need to impress the millennial creatives in your life, take them to the hip, artsy Le Cirque for dinner.

For drinks try the Absinthe Bar in Antibes, which dates to the 1850s and was an old haunt of Baudelaire. Le Bar l’Amiral at the Hôtel Martinez is also a must. The barmen are the most awarded in France for their cocktail-making skills – think Tom Cruise in Cocktail. And Baoli is Jay-Z’s favoured spot – the rooftop has canopied beds and flickering candles overlooking the bay.

The one go-to event this year is, of course, Martin Sorrell’s comeback tour. He’s in conversation with The New Yorker’s media critic Ken Auletta on the Friday. And, of course, don’t miss the talks and exhibition of creative work in the Palais du Festival. It’s easy to get side-tracked, but it’s what you’re here for. As for what to take back? If your dignity and will to live are intact on the flight home, then you’re a winner.

Cannes veteran Jason Foo is founder and CEO of London-based advertising agency BBD Perfect Storm.