French Connection

Zis is the campaign. Fallon have launched a new campaign for French Connection, I'm sure that won't have escaped the attention of our observant readers.

I've always thought that ad agencies have an interesting relationship with fashion brands. Pure fashion advertising is very single-minded and focused (I might do a post on that separately some time), they tend to get on perfectly well without advertising agencies, thankyouverymuch.

I think where you get that crossover point between fashion products and more mass-market or retail, like Clarks, Gap, Diesel maybe, M&S and French Connection it's an interesting place. That where ad agencies get involved - and they sometimes have a tendency to treat these like any other product that they advertise. They're desperate to put an addy idea into them. I don't really like terms like addy, so let me try to explain what I mean. I think they try to put a layer of idea or execution over the top of the product, something that seems to try hard to be clever. Agencies try to do that too much anyway - often what they think is an advertising idea is just a layer of complication that gets in the way rather than helps.

But fashion is a different business again, and finding the balance between a strong, consistent mass-market idea but that feels like it's still in fashion is hard thing to do. What people want from fashion is a mix of things, but basically very simple and very human - ultimately they want to look good, in order to feel good, they want to feel like they're wearing stylish clothes that are right for them. They also want something to aspire to, it's a cliche, but they want to feel better about themselves through the clothes that they wear. Its the age old thing of wanting to be more like or be with the man or woman in the ad.

I think that the new French Connection campaign walks this difficult line outstandingly well. It portrays classic masculine and feminine characters in the way that fashion advertising often tries to do, but it instantly subverts them with a perfectly executed wry knowingness and just the right amount of self-mocking. It has humour and self-awareness that's missing from most fashion advertising. There is so much about it that's well done - a great tone of voice that you can read, as well as hear, lovely style and production values (and let's not underestimate the guts it would have taken someone somewhere to go completely with black & white). The pace of the film/TV/video stuff is lovely and relaxed.

I'm going to reserve my most embarrassingly fulsome praise for three things - the casting/characterization, the writing, and the embracing of the product. The casting of the man is outstanding, bold and excellent, he's the man that blokes want to be; strong, individual, confident, but he's not afraid to be silly - doesn't take himself seriously - and he's not too clean cut. The character of Woman is feminine, young, and is portrayed with that confidence slash innocence slash utter utter disdain that the strongest female movie characters have.

The writing has a strong tone-of-voice, I saw the print ads first and couldn't help but have in my mind the kind of voice that then turned out to be on the film stuff, credit to the typography and art direction for that, too. In the film-based stuff it walks a perfect line between celebrating and taking the piss out of these perfect masculine and feminine characters, it's a bit like classic fashion advertising on a weird mix of uppers and downers. And there are some well-observed little human truths in there. Occasionally it slips into the odd little 'allo 'allo moment, but quickly recovers.

And thankfully, the product is celebrated and integral to everything. Praise the lord.

It may get some criticism from your typical ad-crowd along the lines of 'where's the idea?' in that lame sort of way, or because it's not in-your-face. But fuck 'em I say. This is classic creativity. Doing its job very well, but not overdoing it. It's such a difficult thing to get right. It's probably the piece of Fallon UK work that I most envy. And a great piece of mass-fashion advertising.

Perfectly-styled hats-off to all involved.


  1. I thought it was a bit nonesensey at first, but it's growing on me.

  2. So, so, so much classier than that FCUK attention grabbing rubbish. This campaign cleverly takes the high ground and will make the brand desirable for an audience that can actually pay for the clothes.
    It's very, very difficult to pull off funny and cool but these ads do it. Hope they've got the balls to stick with this approach in the long term as this will only get better and better.

  3. The whole thing is ripped off The Perfect Human by Jorgen Leth.

    "This is the man, see how he moves" etc

    Just because most people won't have seen it doesn't make it ok to nick it. Or does it?

  4. That's an interesting film, thanks for sharing it. I couldn't find the bit that said "This is the man, see how he moves" but I can see how this could easily have been a reference for style and pace.

    I'd say they've still made it their own if so. It's an interesting area this because, after all, everything is influenced by something. In advertising so much these days is completely ripped off, lock, stock and barrel, which is plain lazy. But there is difference when people have taken elements or influence from other things and re-used them to create something new.

    But it's not a finite line where that point between reference/imitation and rip-off is, so is always open to debate I suppose?

  5. Love it. Very stylish and very watchable. Well Done Fallon.

  6. i like it too. reminds me of the 'john wayne' parody that tbwa did of old. back when fcuk was good.

    it's much better than the new diesel stuff. i think that falls into your category of fashion ad created by someone who doesn't understand fashion ads.

  7. In this case, though, I don't really think that the line between reference and rip-off is as blurred as you'd have it, especially because Leth already re-interpreted his original film in a wonderful documentary, The Five Obstructions, a few years ago.

    The French Connection films imitate not only Leth's original film, but also the re-interpretations from the Five Obstructions. In fact the narrator in the FC films imitates almost exactly the pacing and tone of the narrator of one of the Five Obstructions films.

    If this sort of thing happened in the literary world, the plagiarist/'imitator' would never get away with it (I'm thinking particularly of the successful court case of J.K. Rowling against a fan who tried to publish a Harry Potter encyclopaedia) and frankly I think it's rather depressing that you write off the theft of intellectual property in advertising as something that just happens.

    If nothing else, perhaps this will raise the profile of Leth and his wonderful film, but really he should have been consulted and/or paid. Frankly, advertising should quit stealing. It's not inspiration when it's theft.

  8. Hello Phoenicia, thanks for your comment.

    I'm not familiar with the films you're talking about but thanks for the information. However, if you think in my comment that I "write off the theft of intellectual property in advertising as something that just happens" then you've managed to completely misunderstand what I wrote. I said that I find it plain lazy. It's not something that I'm a fan of, so you can rest easy.

    But I stand by my opinion that it's not always a clear line where the point between reference/imitation and rip-off is. Sometimes it's obvious that something has overstepped the mark and is just a lazy rip-off, but other times the lines are more blurred.

    And that's the same in advertising as any other creative output; film, art, literature etc.

    I was going to bring up that old saying, attributed to TS Eliot: "Talent imitates, genius steals". But I don't think you'd find it very funny.

  9. @phoenicia
    Calm down dear, it's only a commercial.

  10. I have reserved my judgement until I saw them all, the all being: print,TV, catalogue, instore. And in my opinion its great. Not for just a fashion brand but as a campaign. No need to explain why, good work speaks for they say.


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