With nine weeks and five days yet to go, the hype has begun for this year's Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.
It's not just the partying and the schmoozing, you understand. Nor the sun, the beaches, the topless bathing - even the possibility of a big gilt cat to adorn the mantelshelf. It is, as the founder of the modern Olympic Games Baron de Coubertin evangelized, "the glory of taking part".
And in the cause both of glory and gelt, the annual shindig's new owner, UK media group Emap, is already talking-up the event. According to festival marketing director Susan Lilley, record numbers of agencies and marketers are booking early to beat the accommodation black market.
Says she: "The agency blocks are larger, and there are definitely new people both from the agency and client side. And not only are clients returning, they're bringing more people with them."
Emap has added two new Lions categories, for integrated marketing and radio. Otherwise there are no fundamental changes.
"It's evolution, not revolution," assures Terry Savage, whose world-weary eyes have witnessed the egos and excesses of nineteen festival summers - three of them as the event's ceo. "If it's not broken, it doesn't need fixing. [Emap] absolutely understands this business."
Even the depleted US dollar - down 30% against the euro over the past two years - is no deterrent to the largest contingent at adland's greatest party.
Meanwhile, thumbing its nose at the extortionate price of accommodation during the festival (and possibly at Publicis' parsimony), a group from Leo Burnett Hungary has announced its intention to drive to Cannes from Budapest in a camper van.
Note to Emap: a special Gold Lion for agency stoicism?
Note to P&G contingent: Cap the Hungarians, row the Atlantic!
Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff