In late 2010, the small Lancashire town of Gisburn was inducted into the Mégane Experiment. The reason being that this apparently lacklustre town was missing something.. it was without Renault Méganes. Unlike its thriving French counterpart- the stylish Menton on the Côte d’Azur, Gisburn was depicted as being in a sorry state, with algae-filled ponds instead of glistening pools, and “sacre bleu” no lingerie shops. And thus began the Mégane Experiment, as Publicis London, teamed with a slightly overconfident frenchman Claude, tried to find the answer to “Can a car transform a town?”.
I like the ambitiousness of this campaign. The campaign starts by showing alternating clips of Gisburn and Menton, with viewers asked to follow the experiment on a separate webpage. Pretty brave, given that Renault are trying to sell cars, rather than what sounds like an undergraduate project. However, I think this made a highly intriguing opener to the campaign, as viewers are made to question the potential difference a car makes. As such, the campaign centres around the consumer and the wider resonance the car has. This is about the car symbolising a French ‘joie de vivre’ and encapsulating a more lively (and it must be said steamy) way of life. While I did find the exagerrated contrast and stereotyping of French/English slightly tedious, I admired the fact that the efforts of the experiment to implement positive change to a slightly run-down Northern town. The way Gisburn was portrayed, like a puppy with a limp, you just wanted Gisburn to do well and show the French how it is done and get the talkative Claude back on the next ferry.
The Mégane Experiment consisted of a well-executed integrated campaign with wonderful prints, a tv documentary and a intelligent use of social media. This all makes the advert more than your average car ad. For example, the documentary, directed by an Oscar-nominated director, was hosted on a microsite that also gave people the chance to win prizes, participate in a ‘Joie de Vivre’ psychometric test and compare how joyful their town is with others. The national press prints were awarded ANNA awards for what the judges described as
“Simple, uncluttered art direction and a refreshing lack of sheet metal make for newspaper ads which more than hold their heads up alongside the rest of this integrated campaign”.
Meanwhile, Claude succeeds in convincing the pub landlord of the White Bull to change its name to the ‘Boeuf Blanc’ complete with an accordion player, teaches the meaning of ‘joie de vivre’ to the primary school and establishes the ‘Festival de Joie’ on the local playing fields. The latter managing to attract over 300 locals, which is not too shabby for potential Renault sales figures. As such, the Mégane Experiment produces an engaging and enthralling advertising campaign that distinguishes it Renault from other car manufacturers and reaches out to its audience in an innovative manner.