FRANCE: The Art of Seduction - What does Ducolax have in common with Ikea? Both ran ads which appealed to the public as well as France's creative community. But which ads flopped? Three creative chiefs offer their verdicts

Pierre Berville president, Callegari Berville Grey

This year I judged two awards ceremonies: the Clios and the French Advertising Festival, in Meribel.

Meribel is considered a credible short-list for successful French work at Cannes, and not one French campaign won a Clio this year. When comparing the winners, there are huge discrepancies. In terms of style, taste, audacity and cultural reference, no similarity can be found between the best of last year's French work and the criteria for international recognition.

So pessimists are already forecasting another French fiasco at Cannes.

Yet Meribel awarded campaigns that were witty, elliptical and transgressive.

Commercials such as Ikea by Leagas Delaney Paris Centre, Charal by Leo Burnett Paris, Roge Cavailles by Callegari Berville Grey and Ducolax by Jean et Montmarin have been lauded.

Relevant and hilarious campaigns that give a surprisingly subtle treatment to themes like canine sodomy, cannibalism, a woman's private parts and constipation.

A few weeks later, the French Art Directors Club marked out the same campaigns and a few more outstanding print ads such as Suchard by Young & Rubicam Paris and Eram by Devarrieux Villaret.

In the recent past, all these campaigns would have been serious candidates for Cannes Lions. Unfortunately, the Clios, while awarding great creative work, seem to show how the taste of international juries has evolved.

Anything that uses sex or guts in an explicit manner is rejected for work that reflects so-called "finer feelings". When you also consider the refusal of any "joke that doesn't reflect an Anglo-Saxon cultural reference, any "friendly relationships between agency networks hoping for a French win at Cannes would seem indulgent.

French advertising has been singled out for years for not being bold enough. It would be a sad paradox if, now that France has developed campaigns that improve on these aspects, it should be disqualified because of they are lacking something more academic.

For the worst French communication, one needs look no further than politics.

Like the candidates' platforms, the last presidential campaign was without shape or content. As a result, almost one in five French people wanted to elect an extreme right-wing president - a sad statistic.

Pascal Gregoire creative director, Leagas Delaney Paris Centre

My favourite ad is for a laxative called Ducolax. It is based on a simple, brilliant idea with universal appeal. This hilarious campaign opens with a woman packing her suitcase surrounded by her family. Everyone seems sad. At the last moment, instead of leaving the house, she goes into the toilet.

The idea is conveyed that, thanks to Ducolax, we no longer have to spend hours on the loo. The film has been expertly produced and the performance is made all the more remarkable by the fact that in France there are strict regulations governing ads for medication.

This film was well-received by the French Association of Art Directors and should win a lot of international awards.

The worst ad so far this year has been for MAAF Assurance. There are a lot of bad insurance ads in France at the moment, they tend to treat people as if they are stupid and make ads that bring shame on our industry.

The MAAF Assurance ad features four stars from Loft Story, the French Big Brother.

This programme has been a huge success, yet the film tries too hard to play on the current fame of the four "Loft dwellers who are inside a car singing the praises of this particular car insurance. There is no real idea behind it, the game of the actors is pathetic and the result is almost unintentionally comic. There is nothing worse than ads that treat people like they're stupid.

Remi Babinet president and co-founder, BETC Euro RSCG, Paris

There is a lot of terrible advertising around, and all of us in the business have to take responsibility for certain flops.

However, one ad that has annoyed quite a few is the new Coca-Cola ad by McCann Paris. The "trendy youth brand positioning is embarrassingly conspicuous, committing the worst sin of patronising the consumer. Borrowing the slick production codes of hip brands and grafting them to the Coca-Cola image, the film is doomed at the outset. Too obvious, too late.

Another ad which fails for similar reasons is the new corporate campaign for McDonald's by TBWA/Paris.

Admittedly, it is a difficult brand to promote in France, but the aspirational, mainstream model is laid on too thick, creating an unrealistic world of beautiful people whose good feelings and false reality totally fail to touch us. Too fake.

By contrast, the Ikea campaign by Leagas Delaney Paris Centre is the only recent campaign that really stood out for both the public and advertising professionals.

Economic and world events put a stop on a lot of business, and production almost came to a halt for many agencies. The Ikea campaign is a funny reminder of painful moments we've all experienced (although perhaps not "the fork"). A fresh and memorable execution of a simple creative idea: chaos kills.


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