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!'
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
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.
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
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