I almost made it on time for my 16:00 appointment with Kelly Zettel today, the Canadian ACD at Leo Burnett Toronto, who was one of 25 on the Cannes Direct jury. I was late. I had an encounter with an escargot, I texted her.
"We are going to be delayed. There is an escargot," the cab driver in Paris said. I've seen this before with geese crossing the highway, but escargots, I asked. When you have a "revendication" (an unmet want requiring the self-appointed aggrieved party to create attention, at times at the expense of others) in France, and somehow are denied the ability to strike about it (say because you did recently and the union extracted what they needed but not all they wanted), then you use the escargot strategy to make a point and bring attention to your issue. So on my way to Orly airport, a few truckers decided to drive at 10km/hour for a 5km stretch, causing a "bouchon" (traffic jam) of gargantuan proportion, causing the cab I was in to move...at a snail's pace. "Revendiquer" is one of the favorite sports here (students in Quebec are also practicing this French art). So I missed my flight.
"Non," I was told at the easyJet counter when I arrived, a little tight for my 11:00 flight from Paris to Nice. I had already processed the possibility of that outcome in my mind on the way over. Still sickened, I walked over to the service area, looking for another flight. The cheapest, though not the easiest, option was to re-book on easyJet for 15:00. So I did. I waited patiently, and 20 minutes later, when it got to my turn, "Guichet Ferme" was put in front of me. "I've been here for 20 minutes," I said. "J'y suis depuis 8:00 ce matin" (been here since eight) he said. "C'est assez, je vais en break" (enough, going on a break). While I've witnessed this customer service from the unionized fellows at Air Canada, I was "bouche bee" (mouth wide open with nothing coming out but the word "but" or another one starting with F). I was primed to explode, given my previous encounter with the "bouchon." This is when self-preservation took hold of me. I made eye contact with the folks at the front of the line next to me. Russian couple, I assessed. I explained my situation in Canada's two official languages and they responded with an intimation that they were in a rush (judging from their movement of their hands). I had a bit of steam coming out of my ears, and, confident he wouldn't engage, or if so would be restrained by his girlfriend, I jumped to their counter when it became available. "Tres desole," I said with my best Parisian accent, never looking back. I do have a Canadian reputation to safeguard while travelling.
"No Canadian entries won, sadly," said Kelly Zettell, one of only four women amongst the jurists. "I was nominated as a result of having won here before. A lot of work, very little sleep over the last week, 2500 entries down to a few. Segregated in small groups at the back of the Palais in Cannes, I never saw the Canadian entries. Many direct entries turned out to be part of a campaign with a more short-term orientation. They weren't deemed to be of a direct, longer term nature. We saw many of our submissions reappear in the Activation and PR categories."
"Winning a Lion can change the course of your career," said Zettell. "And it is a fantastic feeling to participate in causing that outcome for someone else, too. The impact on the resume, it opens doors." What about the money, I asked. The question is left unanswered but as a recruiter I know the impact of a Lion on the resume. I was just hoping to quantify it. We were to meet at the Carlton Hotel, but instead, I'm calling her from easyJet at Paris. Instead of Pastis, I am drinking hours old coffee. Best laid plans.
I finally checked my luggage before boarding my new flight. "Non. 20.4 kilos," the attendant says. OMG. "C'mon" I said, forgetting to say it in a British accent. I was about to jump across the orange counter.
"Non" is the most likely word in France when either returning merchandise or having missed a flight.
Being an executive search consultant, and working to develop my writing skills, I probed Zettel, who transitioned from writer to art director to writer along her great creative journey. "I graduated as a graphic designer, but I joined Taxi as a writer," she said. "Denise Rosetto and I split one salary for one full year to get in and get our careers going." It seems that being keen to get in the business, coupled with the development of talents and versatility, were two critical career defining attributes. It may mean I shouldn't expect to be paid for my writing for a while. It also serves as a reality check about the price to pay for a Lion.
It is my first time in Cannes. I'm loaded like a donkey carrying too many ensembles I guess. "1kg au dessus de la limite for your check-in," (1kg over limit) says the lady at the orange easyJet counter. I guess when you have made the choice to travel sans frill, you are committed to that outcome. I transfer load to my carry-on, living in fear of the next guichet. I will get dinged on my carry-on, limited to a specific size and required to be under 10kg. These things go in threes. "Monsieur, trop lourd," (too heavy) says agent orange. I point to the guy next in line who is thrice my size. I get on the plane, now wearing a safari jacket with pockets loaded for an unaided survival trek on the coast. EasyJet is not so easy. Sans frill means no assigned seat. As I was trying to submit this story to meet a deadline, I am the last one on the plane. I scan for the thinnest people I can find so I can squeeze between them (and I didn't send the story out in time either). Passengers are looking everywhere but at my eyes. Finally I make eye contact. "Non pas moi," (not me) her body language says, indignant, as if I was serving her a cake moelleux without enough molten.
Getting to Cannes turned out to be more challenging than expected. I'm on the plane and announce to myself that I need a holiday. "I worked 16 hours a day judging while here," said Zettel, "I'm going home. I need to rest."
This has me thinking that if the journey to get to Cannes can be this painful, producing work that will win a Lion must be excruciatingly difficult. I look forward to seeing the city, the people, the stories behind the work. And the work.
I finally got to the Palais at 18:10 to get my pass, trying to get an Internet connection that never comes. "On ferme a 18:00 monsieur," (closed now) says the security man. Pardon me? I guess the festival will start tomorrow. Time to watch Euro2012. Yesterday Lowe Roche won for "Apology" for O.B. Tampon. All I wanted was for someone to empathize. Just a little hug.
Stefan Danis, reporting for Adnews.com, is CEO of Mandrake and NEXCareer and has published Gobi Runner, a book about overcoming adversity, available at Amazon.