OPINION: Cowen on ... Kronenbourg 1664

Carl Gottlieb, one of the screenwriters on Jaws, has an interesting argument for why the film has gained classic status. Gottlieb admits Jaws is not a great film in the way that, say, Citizen Kane is. It isn't a significantly innovative piece of cinema and does not have a deep storyline.

The main reason for it remaining on film geeks' top ten lists, Gottlieb claims, is that every aspect of the direction, the actors' performances and the script is so well executed. Jaws is a film that sets out merely to entertain but, as anyone who's nervous about swimming in the ocean can attest, it does this with a level of skill that raises it above the average blockbuster.

M&C Saatchi's new campaign for Kronenbourg 1664 isn't Citizen Kane either - nor is it profound or original enough to be mentioned in the same breath as Guinness' "surfers", Sony PlayStation's "double life or CDP's "Heineken and "Hamlet ads. Like Jaws, the campaign's main selling point is entertainment, but, as with Jaws, you have to applaud the skill, poise and attention to detail that's evident in every frame and shows how much craft is needed to create a genuine crowd-pleaser.

The idea of selling a product on the basis of its foreign heritage is nothing new - certainly not in the premium lager category in which Kronenbourg operates. Stella Artois' proposition might be "reassuringly expensive but Lowe's TV ads leave little doubt of the importance of being "reassuringly rustic and European to its positioning. Similarly, in the 15 years that Young & Rubicam has handled Kronenbourg, its French identity has been rammed home to consumers. The problem, according to Kronenbourg's comments when they switched the account to M&C Saatchi nine months ago, is that no-one ever came up with a convincing reason why this is a good thing.

This is partly caused, I'd suggest, by the fact there's no logical argument that explains why European lager should be inherently superior - still less one that would convince your average British drinker that he should be taking beer tips from the French. The real strength of M&C Saatchi's campaign is that it realises this. It doesn't try to convince us with any ground-breaking, mind-blowing strategic insight about the quality of French brewing, or even the quality of the French themselves. It's ambition is limited to an amiable spoof of national cultures but the sheer wit and style with which it carries this off gives it all the conviction that it needs to win over an audience. The ads hit the populist high notes so consistently and leave us so thoroughly entertained that, by the end, the ludicrous central hypothesis actually seems to make sense. Of course being French would be great - now pass the beer and I'll drink to it.

The ingredients may be basic but they're put to fine use. For starters there's the soundtrack. Using Serge Gainsbourg for this ad is one of the original no-brainers, but the track still fits the upbeat mood perfectly and the contrast with the fanfare at the beginning works very well. The voiceover is performed warmly and maintains the impression of a snigger lurking just below the surface of the narrative. Best of all are the scripts - which are crammed with good, subtle touches and get away with lines such as the "funny little dogs gag that would normally appear to be trying too hard.

There are plenty of ads which demand that an audience pays attention to the details but precious few that reward an audience so richly for doing so. The result? M&C Saatchi's TV work may not stay in the popular imagination for as long as Jaws, but it will stay there a lot longer than the brand's advertising so far - and deservedly so.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Ah Mais Oui! Il merite un crayon ou deux, je
crois.
File under ... B for Bon.
What would the chairman's wife say? That's all very well but they still
thought about electing Le Pen.

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