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[Nicole? Papa!]



Comedian Jasper Carrott quipped in his Commercial Breakdown 3 that only two copywriters were required in advertising. One to write Nicole, and one to write Papa.
   He was referring to Publicis' highly successful campaign for the Renault Clio, which has been running since 1991 and is one of Britain's best-known television commercial series. The dialogue consists of two words: 'Nicole?' and 'Papa!'
[Nicole and Papa: skiing scene]    Shot in Provence, the "Nicole and Papa" series makes use of national characteristics and has turned Estelle Skornik into a star in the UK. They are, in short, glimpses into the everyday life of Nicole. The first advertisement, without dialogue, showed Nicole in a spotted summer frock, slipping past Papa and driving away with the Clio for a rendezvous with her boyfriend. The second featured Nicole, even more chic in a black dress, and her new boyfriend taking Papa's Clio to a ball, now with Papa's consent. (Papa goes off on a romantic rendezvous, too.) A third saw Nicole and Papa on a skiing holiday, as research demanded they be together for a change. In every advertisement, there is a small twist, leaving questions unanswered.
   In 1994, with the new generation Clio, Nicole grows up.
   Directed by Richard Loncraine and shot in Provence, the TVCs continue le savon populaire. Instead of the typical car advertising gimmicks of macho postures and voiceovers ranting about the new driver's-side airbag, the 1994 blitz began with Nicole, now a sophisticated young woman, on a shopping trip.
   Nicole undergoes her transformation from girlhood to womanhood, while the car, the print ads inform, gains the airbag, ABS brakes, side impact protection bars and lockable safety head restraints.
[Renault Clio]    The approach has succeeded beyond Renault's dreams. In 1994, the campaign was one of the most readily recollected according to Marketing, getting into number seven in April, with a 68 per cent prompted recall. Earlier this year, Complete Car magazine revealed that Renault received top marks among 470,000 European drivers who felt that the company produced the most influential advertising. Renault was found to be the most persuasive advertiser in five countries.
   The Clio itself made it into the UK's top ten car sales for 1994 - the first time for Renault in 15 years.
   Deep down, every advertising director wants popularity. Recall figures mean little alongside the fact your advertisement is the subject of everyone who watches TV. Or everyone on TV. Clive Anderson; a contestant on Blind Date with Cilla Black; and episodes of Birds of a Feather and The Mary Whitehouse Experience, have referred to Nicole and Papa. The £350 dress worn in the first commercial inspired a £37.99 copy at Selfridges.
   Renault have been known to contrast others' approaches, shown even in their product strategy, bringing us cars such as the Espace and Twingo. In advertising, Renault and Publicis do not use aggression; instead, they employ French flair. From the foreigners' perception of French women as flirtatious and feminine, to the style that all French people are perceived unconsciously to possess. The style is carried through to their cars, research showing perception of French strengths to include chic and visual flair.



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1 First page
2 Campaign Success
3 National Front
4 Estelle


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The author would like to thank Ms Fiona Love of Publicis Ltd., and the editor of Renault UK's customer magazine, Autoworld for their earlier assistance in this article in CAP magazine.