However, I can still remember how the TV campaign, "What's yours called?", made me feel that I was driving a car with instant street cred and sex appeal (1). I am not sure if it was the soundtrack, the visuals, the celebrity endorsements (I was particularly taken by Kevin Keegan, but less sure about Nicolas Parsons) or the fact that it made me give my car a name, Stan, but I loved that car and I loved the advertising.
We then had one of the most iconic and memorable car campaigns ever with Papa and Nicole for the Renault Clio. From when it broke in 1991, the TV advertising became something of a soap opera as consumers eagerly anticipated the next installment.
It played on the English view of French women as being sexy, stylish and flirtatious. In a far subtler way, it also cleverly married two apparently disparate target markets for the car - young female consumers and traditional 55-year-old second-car buyers.
The campaign, which ran for eight years, culminated in the wedding between Vic Reeves and Nicole (5). More than 14 million people saw the spot and it became a talking point because the identity of the groom was shrouded in secrecy. Achieving this kind of interest in an ad campaign is rare, but consumers still talk about the advertising in research groups.
1998 saw the visual cocktail of the Scenic TV commercial successfully launching a whole new car category, the mini MPV sector, with the "change your scenery" campaign (3). Whenever I saw this ad with its cracking soundtrack, it always made me happy and want to have more children ... which I did, two more!
Recently, Renault has tuned into some of the values you more readily associate with the French - style, sophistication, flair, sex appeal and that certain je ne sais quoi. From the enfant terrible Jean Paul Gaultier to launch the "createur d'automobiles" to the inspired choice of Thierry Henry as the face for Clio just as he was on the cusp of superstardom (4). Henry is as popular with men for his awesome talent and undoubted style as he is with the women for his sex appeal and charm.
Apart from the casting, the other magical element was to invent a phrase - "va va voom" - that entered the vernacular. Football commentators loved it and frequently used it to explain Mr Henry's football skills. In April last year, the Oxford English Dictionary defined it as "The quality of being exciting, vigorous or sexually attractive".I don't think the French could have put it better themselves.
Finally, the new Megane was launched with the "shake it" campaign (6).
Only the French could launch such a distinctive-looking car in such a vibrant way. Turning radical and quirky into sexy and desirable while getting a whole nation "shaking that ass".
Renault has been right at the forefront of continually raising the bar in terms of creativity and differentiation. The brand has always believed in the power of the TV and it plays a pivotal role in driving brand equity and awareness, specifically for new launches. Renault consistently uses TV as a showcase for French creativity, flair, style and sophistication.
Through a mix of memorable creative work, beautifully shot commercials and mould-breaking work that always surprises, Renault is TV advertising that always leaves it mark. Vive la France!
1. RENAULT 5 Title: Names Agency: Publicis London Year: 1985 2. RENAULT LAGUNA Title: Station Agency: Publicis London Year: 1994 3. RENAULT SCENIC Title: Scenery Agency: Publicis London Year: 1999 4. RENAULT CLIO Title: Performance Agency: Publicis London Year: 2002 5. RENAULT CLIO Title: Lucky man Agency: Publicis London Year: 1998 6. RENAULT MEGANE Title: Shake it Agency: Publicis London Year: 2003