BETC Paris CCO Remi Babinet: Three Of My Favorite Campaigns, And The One That Got Away
By Michael Lee
(This article first appeared in Forbes)
I recently posted what I thought were the best ever creative directors in advertising. One of those creative directors was Remi Babinet, the Chief Creative Officer of BETC in Paris.
I have known Remi since the early '90s when we were both part of EURO/RSCG’s (now HAVAS) Worldwide Creative Board. I have been a fan of Remi and BETC since those early days. Recently I asked Remi about the body and quality of work the agency had produced over the years. They have produced some really remarkable work for many clients, in many different categories. Of all those campaigns, I asked, which are his favorites? Does he have a favorite son or daughter? He thought at length and came up with these three examples of BETC at its best.
photo by Vincent Dessailly.
Michael Lee: Of all the campaigns you've worked on, which are your favorites?
Remi Babinet: Evian is one of BETC’s historic accounts. Our approach with this brand truly represents what we like and are good at: using advertising as a tool to give a particular style to a brand, to build its reputation and help it become a pop culture reference.
From the very first campaign that we made in 1998 for Evian, with the swimming babies, we tried to go beyond the classic TV ad and create something much more entertaining. We didn’t want to simply sell a product; we wanted to make something that stood out from other ads. We therefore made a music video. This is almost commonplace now, but back then it was groundbreaking. The inspiration for this first video came from Esther Williams films, creating this odd yet irresistible aquatic dance performance.
It was at that moment that babies became the symbol for Evian, synonymous with eternal youth. Once this was established, anything was possible and we pushed it as far as we could. With the following campaigns, we continued making music videos featuring babies. They were all successful and became viral hits, quite like how a popular musician would keep delivering hit videos.
Bit by bit we created an Evian universe, launching a series of branded merchandise. We made t-shirts, pins, vinyl discs, singles (our remixed track of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ sung by kids sold more than 500.000 copies). We even went as far as creating flip-flops with special soles that left baby footprints when you walked on the sand with them. That was branded content before there was branded content.
Looking back at all that makes me think that we worked with Evian in exactly the same way that we would have worked with a rock band. We had a hit song, a music video, merchandise with the t-shirts and the pins — small media moments that spread the message and the energy of the brand. We triggered a significant following for Evian, establishing a fan base who were proud to wear the t-shirt of their favorite water bottle brand, selling more than 15,000 pieces of apparel.
We always ensure that we maintain quality of execution in all the work we do and a high level of craft. Ultimately, this is what gives the work its value, and I’m convinced that this quality of thought is recognized by the public. That’s why we need to appeal to and respect their intelligence and sensitivity. The Evian success story is excellent proof of why this is the correct approach. We have won 214 awards for the different executions of the Evian brand platform, with more than 86 million views for the Roller Babies film (the most viewed commercial online according to the Guinness Book of Records), 138 million views and more than five million shares for the Baby&me video.
Lee: I've always loved the Evian work. Such a simple strong strategy kept fresh by innovative execution. It's not a brand that is jumping around trying to find a strategy. Great start, what's the next one?
Babinet: CANAL+ is a French TV channel that has always positioned itself as being alternative, with a hint of counterculture and irreverence. It’s miles away from the political correctness of prime-time television. People even refer to the ‘CANAL spirit’, a symbol of provocation, humor, satire and offbeat, sometimes trashy alternative culture.
CANAL is also regarded as THE movie channel, kind of like a French HBO, and is the home of quality film and television content creation and programming. It is a premium network where movies and television series are broadcast first.
Our job was not just to promote the channel but also the whole CANAL culture, that is unapologetic and open, while at the same time being extremely demanding on the level of quality of the films and series that it produces. With CANAL, we had a vision to defend.