The World: Insider's view - France

The French ad industry is willing to embrace change, but those working in it are proving less than enthusiastic.

The debate about communication and digital media in France is taking place around two different tables. The first is inside the agencies, while the other is inside the market itself.

And the language spoken isn't necessarily the same. Ask any ad person what the reason for their professional existence is and they will probably answer to generate ideas that drive business. That's it.

The idea has to be good, engaging, relevant, flexible, and one that can spread off- and online. But then you have to "walk the talk", and it then becomes a different game.

At the Cannes Festival this year, France won only a single silver at the Cyber Lions, and there were no French teams among the 27 countries who were competing for the Young Creatives Cyber accolade.

Why? In agencies' creative departments, it's still easy to find three generations of creatives who have different backgrounds and priorities. There's still a good number of creatives in France who feel more comfortable wearing shoes labelled "classic", "digital" or "event" and they tend not to swap them.

So, the result is that, quite often, creative ideas have a difficult time living their lives in multiple channels. And similar can be said for a number of account people, producers and strategic planners.

But if you take a look at this from another point of view, the situation seems radically different.

A couple of months ago, one of the biggest French interactive agencies announced it was going to start swimming in classic advertising waters. Not only web, but TV, print and posters as well.

For a long time, such agencies positioned themselves as "we-only-do-internet-that's-why-we're-good-at-it", but these times have gone.

On the other hand, we see more and more start-ups putting content, digital and interactive at the core of their businesses. Not only TV, print and posters, but the web as well.

The big groups are buying small shops on a monthy basis and there are cross-fertilisations, synergies and melting pots of synergies all making the news.

In France, a web company manager can run a classic ad agency as easily as an ad expert can get a top job with a web company.

Even production companies that are used to generating content and programmes for TV are providing, free of charge, a selection of thousands of hours of mini-streamings on the web in order to generate usage and traffic as a basis for new branded platforms.

These are all tangible indications of the evolution starting to take place in France. And it also offers proof of a peculiar paradox. Namely, that while the French world of communications is ready for change, most of the people who are working in it are not.

- Andrea Stillacci is the executive creative director of Callegari Berville Grey in Paris.

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