Simplicity the essence of ad

Make the best of a situation is what the top ad agencies do, and this is what Montreal hot shop Foug has done with a small campaign for its client, Banque Nationale.A simple, one-color print ad communicates in an elegant and...

Make the best of a situation is what the top ad agencies do, and this is what Montreal hot shop Foug has done with a small campaign for its client, Banque Nationale.

A simple, one-color print ad communicates in an elegant and attractive way, a straightforward message from the bank about a new service to Quebec companies.

‘Simplicity is the essence of this ad,’ says Patrick Emirogiou, the writer-concepteur who worked with art director and agency President Pierre Audet to create the campaign.

‘The message is simple and so is our means of communicating it,’ Emirogiou says.

Halftone

The magic of simplicity. Flush left, constituting half of the vertical and horizontal space in the ad, is a graphic of a road leading to Paris. We know it is Paris because in the background is the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.

The graphic is an excellent halftone or heliogramme reproduced superbly even in the grungy, grey Les Affaires, the comprehensive Quebec business weekly.

A fine red border around the ad is the same red as in the bank’s logo.

The headline, set in an elegant, italic, serif font reads: ‘Prenez la route Nationale pour vos affaires en France.’ Loosely translated, it means, ‘Take the National route for your business in France.’

The headline is more effective in French because main highways in France are known as ‘routes nationales.’ And there is the obvious play on words between ‘route nationale’ and ‘Banque Nationale.’

The copy cooks along at a brisk pace, explaining the bank’s new agreement with the French Banque Regionale d’Escompte et de Depots (breds), which offers Quebec clients strategic counselling and financial services for their business in France.

‘The objective of the campaign was to show people how simple it is to do business with France,’ says Emirogiou.

He adds jokingly, ‘We’re trying to suggest, `Look, it’s just north of St-Jerome [a small town north of Montreal.]‘ ‘

‘This kind of copy is a Foug trademark,’ Emirogiou says. ‘We always try to employ short, tight copy.’

What inspired the artwork?

‘Pierre [Audet] saw a photo or drawing like the one in our ad,’ says Emirogiou.

‘He thought it communicated effectively the idea of a direct road to Paris, which is what we wanted to suggest in our ad, that the Banque Nationale offers a direct route to France vis-a-vis financial services and counselling,’ he says.

Symmetry

Small, one-color ads have to pose the greatest challenge to an agency. Everything has to be readable, yet everything is obliged by space constraints to be smaller.

One tendency among some clients is to make certain elements in the ad larger at the expense of esthetic and visual symmetry and balance.

Smaller ads tend to have proportionate larger body copy. They end up looking like an editorial erratum. The graphic gets scrapped and the headline is reduced to 15 point.

Not the case with this Foug ad.

The nice, large graphic provides a feeling of more visual space. Without the airy graphic, no interplay could have been created between the graphic and the copy. The large graphic forces and enables the headline to be smaller.

The logos are also obliged to be smaller in small ads, a reality of small ads which clients have the most difficulty accepting. And the phone numbers would be considered by some people as mice type, but it is proportional to the rest of the ad.

Tasteful

This ad works. In spite of its size, it makes the most of every tasteful graphic device it can. It is also helped by a strong concept.

Foug created a minor sensation last spring in Montreal when it ran a print ad with the headline, ‘Merci, Jacques.’

The cleverly timed ad thanked Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers for his exceptional work during the year which helped advance the hockey club into the playoffs.

This was only the second round of the playoffs, and the Canadiens were not expected to get much further.

How absurd that seems now in tranquil retrospect when we consider the golden record of the winning-est franchise in the modern history of professional sports.

But at the time, Banque Nationale wanted to pre-empt everyone else and be the first to publicly thank Demers and the Canadiens for a great season.

The ad really struck a chord with popular imagination, or at least with the imagination of the press here.

The bank soon found itself on every broadcast talk show in the city, explaining its advertisement and its curious timing.

‘It was a pr coup,’ says Jean Quintin, general manager of the agency. ‘The message reached deep into the heart of Quebecers.’

Michael Judson is president of Publicite Judson Woods, a full service advertising and public relations company in Montreal.