Admen are used to a little gentle name-calling. Even French admen,
who people their TV, poster and press ads with scantily dressed lovelies
- an abandon their Anglo-Saxon cousins find hard to fathom. But when the
name-caller is the Archbishop of Paris, they have to play things
And so it was with DDB in Paris last week. The agency excited a fury
around France by the hitherto straightforward device of launching an ad
campaign for the Volkswagen Golf. One of the executions in a poster
campaign that was posted at 10,000 sites around the country showed Jesus
at the Last Supper recommending the car to his eager disciples. The
intention was clearly to amuse rather than to shock, as DDB’s agency
director, Benjamin Pardo, was quick to confirm.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t how Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger saw it. He
penned a savage attack on the campaign in an article for Le Monde,
calling it a cynical attempt to sell products by any means possible.
’Today it’s the Christ of Holy Thursday for a new Volkswagen and
tomorrow, who will it be for yoghurts and the new generation of portable
telephones?’ he asked. And then, just to rub salt into the wound, he
suggested the ad was the sort of thing responsible for the tendency of
youths to set cars and buses ablaze around France before concluding with
a rather poor pun which clearly suggested that all admen are
The Bishops Conference hit DDB with a Fr3.3 million lawsuit, while
supporters took matters into their own hands and covered up the posters
or tore them down at sites up and down the country.
Given the ferocity of the response, there was only one thing DDB could
do - cave in. Sex sells, but that other prime motivator, religion,
clearly isn’t yet even going to get a chance to do the same. ’We have no
disrespect for the fundamental values of society nor for the beliefs of
the faithful,’ an agency spokesperson said. ’We retracted the posters
immediately to show our respect for the faith and the feelings expressed
by certain believers.
We are also making a donation to Secours Catholic.’