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The value of being typically French

Camille Yvinec

Executive Strategy Director, Paris

Brand Union



Let’s be honest, it is probably not the French who are best placed to judge what people mean when they speak of "the French touch". Here, we simply do what we do. But when colleagues around the world ask us to apply this French touch, what is it they have in mind?


We could flatter ourselves and believe they refer to our reputation for excellence and French elegance – our fine taste and quest for perfection. But there’s more to it than that. A perhaps less flattering aspect of Frenchness is our spirit of contestation. This ability to question - ideally positively - processes, relationships and brands is often what people are looking for.


We always find it more interesting to circumvent the rules (even our own rules) to find an unexpected answer. In our agency, we observe a certain jubilation among strategic and creative teams when they produce new answers discovered in new ways. As a result, when international clients have very precise specifications, they tend to consult agencies around the world; they have the final result in mind already. But when they want to be surprised, even gently challenged, they turn to a French agency.


As French novelist Jean d'Ormesson observed: "What could be more French than the irony and lightness which at all times belongs to the legend of Paris? To be French is to love tradition and to love the revolution. To be French is first of all a contradiction."


As well as French style, there is a French spirit. Think of the quality of execution of Air France’s communications, played with a subtle sense of humor. Or the imaginary Hermes dictionary, the Hermesistible.


Beyond the know-how, there a French desire to look for the side step rather than the standard solution. For agencies and brands, it is a matter of thinking about creating a certain fluidity in the expression of a brand and the experience it delivers, in order to allow everyone to enjoy moments of freedom that are typically French. The «French Touch» is this relatively intangible je-ne-sais-quoi, whose rules are being rewritten all the time.