Coming back to France after two years in London is a challenge.
The French ad industry has just been through a prolonged depression. Clients are spending less, there are fewer pitches and account reviews, and staff turnover has been high across the agencies. The feeling of pessimism and a lack of dynamism have been evident across the industry, making me ask the question: is this the right moment to return?
Spend a little time in the French advertising industry, though, and the situation starts to look more promising than at first appears. While there are still some difficult areas - food brands cut their investment by 18 per cent during the first part of the year, and the TV and newspaper markets continue to suffer - there are also signs of an upturn. Some sectors, such as the telecommunications market, remain healthy and continue to grow; online is positively booming, and new magazine categories, including a rash of celebrity-focused titles, are starting to emerge.
More interesting, perhaps, are the changes we may begin to see from clients. Under constant economic pressure, they are starting to look for new approaches to brand communication in an attempt to connect with consumers in different ways and are starting to embrace new media.
The question is, then, whether their agencies are doing enough to transform themselves at the same time. Are they conscious of the need to change?
Can they manage the new ways of working that clients now expect?
The answer, of course, is that some of them can, while others lag behind.
TBWA\Paris, rightly considered one of the best agencies in the world, is ahead of the pack when it comes to adapting to changes in the market.
But the majority are not.
And that is the moment when I come to thank the Brits.
Having spent two years in London at BBDO and working closely with Abbott Mead Vickers, I have returned with some fresh views that help shake up traditional thinking and behaviour.
And that is what France needs the most: new ideas and fresh perspectives.
And there are some clear steps in the right direction that encourage a feeling of optimism. For example, the creation of new agencies such as Marcel and M&C Saatchi, both entering the market with different though strong ambitions.
So is this the moment to bet on France? Definitely. There is a feeling emerging and spreading in France that it is time to move, time to change the paradigm and reinvent our business. French and international clients are starting to see the benefits. Exciting, isn't it?
- Valerie Accary is the chief executive of BBDO Paris.