WORLD: MEDIUM OF THE WEEK - Culture Pub decrypts world advertising for France

Blachas and Herve in equal parts celebrate and critique ads, Caroline Carlsson says.

Culture Pub is a show in France that aims to inform viewers about the social phenomena created by advertising and communication.

It's consistently watched by more than a million viewers and has been running for 16 years, making it one of the oldest shows in French broadcasting.

It lasts for about 30 minutes and is broadcast every other Sunday on M6.

The two faces of the show, the creators and producers Christian Blachas and Thomas Herve, present its segments in dialogue style. First comes an in-depth analysis of a communication phenomenon, consisting mainly of interviews and archive sequences. An ad-related subject completes the main theme, after which viewers are presented with the cream of the crop of the latest foreign ad creations and exclusive cuts of campaigns to come. One recent show was "California: the campaign of the century", an expose of how Arnold Schwarzenegger's savvy use of TV ads won him California.

Other themes have been how the US army comes up with names such as Desert Storm, as well as insight into how the UK's royal family has lost control of its own image.

The show clearly owes much of its success to this melange of joyful celebration and sober criticism. Blachas and Herve, self-described as "the old sage and the young nut", maintain a zippy dialogue, which is often ironic, yet never disrespectful. Finding the right tone can be hard, especially on a channel run wholely on ad revenues. The production team's job is a balancing act between what it wants to tell its viewers and the channel's own commercial interests.

The concept is unique in Europe. "There is no other show that deals with advertising from a manipulative angle," Herve said, during the show's 15th birthday celebration last year. "Advertising is manipulation unashamed of its purpose. Our purpose is to decrypt the different codes of ad speak."

There have been unsuccessful attempts to copy Culture Pub. "Our secret is that the show is both informative and entertaining," Olivier Domerc, the editor-in-chief, says. "Showing just ads wouldn't work because there aren't that many very good ones after all and showing analyses would only bore people after a while." The show will soon be exported - Domerc says.

Portugal, Spain and Hungary are first, followed by Canada and maybe the UK.

It is extraordinary that the concept has not been sold before. While ad-zapping boxes fly off US shelves, 1.6 million French happily subject themselves to half-an-hour of ads and advertising analyses. Teenagers, young executives, advertising professionals and ad lovers are all fans.

"I love the show," Claire Lestoille, the communication director at Noos, the French cable TV leader, says. "I don't think I've missed one since I was 15 years old." Music to an advertiser's ears, in other words.

Frequency: Bi-monthly, Sunday

Time: 8.50pm to 9.20pm GMT

Audience: 1.6 million

Average cost of an advertising slot: 13,000 euros

Typical advertisers:, Infogrammes

Competitors: Secrets d'actualite, Channel M6