29.11.06

French letters from my windmill

Best Enemies. Worst Friends.

It is no secrecy that both sides of the Channel have for long developed an ambiguous relationship. "Entente Cordiale" came after years of tensions, be it on battlefields, rugby-fields, European politics fields... It is therefore amazing to see how this "Je t'aime, moi non plus" relationship (I love you, neither do I), has influenced both languages.

Shame on you.

If you have a close look at expressions using the word English in French, and vice versa, you realise that they tend to embed negative connotation, or even refer to shameful behaviours. For instance:
- "Excuse my French": French being used to refer to gross language
- "Filer a l'anglaise" (sneaking out the English way): cowardly fleeing
- etc.

Obviously, if you have to blame something or someone, you prefer to refer to your worst reference: your closest enemy.
An amazing point is that the word "Condoms", which has long been a shameful item in the modern societies, had once been nicknamed respectively "French Letters" in England and "Capotes Anglaises" (English Decks) in France...

Put it on.

But, mindsets evolve. I don't know if we should be thankful to Entente Cordiale or, more realistically, to some sexual and moral evolutions, but the later expressions tend now to be outdated. For years they were synonyms of fear. Nowadays condoms have made their way to the bright side of life. They are no longer shameful, they are even playful.
It is indeed interesting that almost at the same time, on both sides of the Channel, English and French marketers have launched communication campaigns to promote condom brands.

In the UK, Durex is on the front page of all Marketing magazines with its "expected" and controversial TVC to be aired on December 1st. Here is what Campaign announces in its recent online edition:
Durex will become the first brand to advertise a sex toy on terrestrial TV when it launches an ad for a vibrating penis ring on 1 December.The 30-second ad, which can be broadcast only after 11pm following a ruling by the BACC, features a couple sitting in a restaurant. The woman is handed a ring box across the table, which she opens to find the Durex Play Vibrations inside. She immediately accepts her partner's proposal. The end shot shows Durex's entire sexual-enhancement range under the 'Durex Play' banner. The ad will be shown on Channel 4 and Five, as well as on satellite. A spokeswoman said Durex is lobbying the BACC, as it believes the 11pm restriction for the ad is too severe. The firm has sold 400,000 Durex Play Vibrations since its launch in July 2005. Creative agency: McCann Erickson Barcelona Media agency: Universal McCann Manchester.
In France, Manix is in the limelight. For the French speaking readers of this post, I strongly recommend this brilliant review by parcequemoiaussi . For the other, here is a quick digest of what to expect. First a a one-shot apocalyptic TVC: 90 seconds, 68 actors, 217 condoms and a single TV airing (November 26, 11pm on national channels). This film announcing the end of the world will be then viewable in cinemas in December. The strapline? "Are you ready for so much pleasure?"

But there is more to come... The micro website delivers the same consumer benefit in hilarious way. Amongst other, tips to really get it right (get rid of the kids, send the dog in pension...), a statistics on the cost of a child, a photo competition of sexually explicit objects...

Condom brands are even turning into real brand device with brand values, etc. They were cornered in a niche market? They have decided to expand beyond the simple rubber. Sex toys are already out. What next? Hand-cuffs? Soft wipe-outs? After all who better than condom brands can exploit what marketers call brand... stretching!

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