Grey suffers friendly-fire from Patti Smith in Cannes

The problem with turning to famous faces and outspoken media stars to help promote yourself in Cannes is that such slebs are not always easy to control. And so it was with this year’s roll-call of improbable celebrities attending the seminars and lunches in the Croisette.

The Black Eyed Peas’ put his own indelible stamp on proceedings when he declared “advertising is yesterday”.

I’m not sure if Intel, or its agency McCann, were quite ready to discuss the nuances of the debate, but he did raise some interesting points about the role brand ambassadors play in today’s world.

“So what we are all experiencing is a big major shift,” he said. “What ad agencies used to do, what marketers used to do, that brands want to continue to have. That interaction and engagement with a bunch of people. To put the brand in front of it.”

However, any stir the rapper caused was nothing compared to that of 70s punk rocker Patti Smith.

One of music’s original fire-starters, Smith showed time had not mellowed her too much when she made an impromptu appearance in the Cannes press centre after appearing on stage with WPP’s Grey.

In a highly charged and, it has to be said, highly entertaining 10 minutes, the American singer-songwriter who crashed onto the scene with her debut album Horses, had no intention of sparing anyone’s blushes.

Asked why she was attending the 2011 Cannes Festival of Creativity, the former hell-raiser was precise and to the point: “I’m a free person and I’ll go anywhere the f*ck I want.”

But Grey, home to GlaxoSmithKline, and the global multimillion pound advertising behemoth that is the Grey Healthcare Group, wouldn’t have been too impressed with what she said next.

“Of course I think a lot of advertising’s evil,” she said. “I think especially pharmaceutical advertising is evil. The most important thing for any advertising is truth… People should not be seduced into getting drugs and pharmaceuticals they don’t need through advertising.”


Smith went on to complain about the media’s obsession with all things celebrity at the cost of “serious, important news” – something no doubt this year’s delegates at Cannes could identify with.

It was left to one of the oldest swingers in town, the Sundance Kid himself, Robert Redford, to prove that it really didn’t have to be so painful. His speech with Yahoo proved to be both poignant and heart-felt and managed that rare feat of making us all feel a little better for having seen him.

  • Richard Ferguson

    Good on you Patti once a punk always a punk I only wish there more punks like you in the advertising world.

  • sergio santos

    2 years ago BES (a big portuguese private bank) invited Sir Bob Geldof for a conference on sustainability. Obviously Mr. “Live Aid” ended up pointing out to a high-profile audience of Angolan politicians and business men that Angola was not a very “sustainable” country (ie, not democratic and not very fair regarding its own wealth distribution). The party was over the next minute!

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