From fake to fomo- what you were really missing out on at Cannes Lions

FOMO. Fear of missing out. One eye always on a more interesting interlocutor. In Cannes there is always a party more glamorous and exclusive that has passed you by. The yacht will have sailed before you even knew it. Forget the smiles and the sun. The all-pervasive sense that you get from a certain type of Lions festival goer is one of fear and loathing, a social paranoia whose growth corresponds to the gradual pickling of their livers via a constant stream of free rosé.

On Tuesday I shared on Instagram an image of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. Nothing particularly strange there. It was the accompanying text that caused my account to go into temporary meltdown. I commented “Special secret #cannes2017”. As far as I know Yorke didn’t make pop by Cannes on his way to Glasto and the post was designed as an experiment: can fomo be used to stir interest on the basis of zero evidence?

The result was a resounding yes. For days afterwards I received messages from far and wide. There were those who were gutted to have missed the Yorke bash. For others it confirmed their suspicions that no matter how much of a festival veteran they are the best parties will remain the stuff of legend. There were even a few who claimed to have also been there and wasn’t it awesome. The power of fake news doesn’t so much stem from the deception as the desire for it to be true.  Arriving at a point where fact blurs with fiction and life itself sinks into the murky depths of fake news I even began to believe in my own apocryphal adventure. Thom was amazing. The rosé did flow like it was roaring nineties. Britain didn’t vote to leave the EU, and isn’t it reassuring to see Donald Trump back in his old role as a network clown and no longer bothering the grownup world.

It could be the sun getting to me but a week in Cannes seems to set the world to right. None of it real of course. Brands can’t really save us from war and poverty and a Lions awards really isn’t a Nobel prize. In contrast to the parties few delegates appear to worry much about the festival’s programme of talks. Of those who bother most were content to clap along to talks so fatuous they took naval gazing to the level of full-on endoscopy. Why no fomo for some of the less prominently positioned talks happening in one of the genuinely fascinating new strands of the festival- Lions Entertainment? It is this kind of hot housing of thought leadership that Cannes needs to remain vital and relevant. Secret parties no one gets into? Not so much.