`Gonzo’ campaign

One of the great things about creating a campaign for a non-profit organization is creative latitude.Montreal's Bleu Blanc Rouge is having some fun with such a campaign, getting away with some really wacky ads promoting some non-wacky civic behavior.The billboard ads...

One of the great things about creating a campaign for a non-profit organization is creative latitude.

Montreal’s Bleu Blanc Rouge is having some fun with such a campaign, getting away with some really wacky ads promoting some non-wacky civic behavior.

The billboard ads promote ‘responsible drinking,’ or the consumption of alcoholic beverages in moderation. The campaign is funded by Educ-alcool, a provincial association of distillers and spirits merchants.

‘It’s a moderation message,’ says Richard Constantineau, the agency’s creative director. ‘We’re trying to appeal to people’s intelligence and good sense.

A stated goal or not, the agency’s work is also cracking people up with its gonzo headlines.

‘These are typical Quebec-French expressions dripping in idiomatic style,’ says Gaston Aubre, French copywriter extraordinaire of the company, Boomerang.

Aubre laughed out loud at several of the headlines, his favorite being: ‘On peut porter un toast sans se beurrer.’

Loosely adapted by Judson, it means in English, ‘You can enjoy a toast without getting toasted.’ Literally translated, it reads: ‘ You can enjoy a toast without getting buttered.’

Here is where the idiom thing kicks in and stumps the English adaptation crew. In English in Quebec, we don’t refer to getting drunk as getting ‘buttered.’

Yet, getting ‘buttered’ in French means to get really toasted.

‘ `Se beurrer’ means to get so totally drunk that you can’t stand up anymore, one more and you’re unconscious,’ Aubre says. ‘Toast’ is also real Quebecois slang.

‘We’ve got a lot of expressions for getting drunk in French,’ he says.

This campaign may prove Aubre is right because it uses most of them for effect.

The art direction is straightforward but effective.

In each of the five ads, there is an eight- or nine-word headline set in reverse in black in a rectangular box. ‘The headline is almost too long,’ Constantineau says. ‘Normally, you don’t want any more than four or five words on a billboard, but this works.’

Headline box

The headline box is set at a slight angle, and in each poster the glass containing a beverage slightly overlays the headline box. The box looks like a large tag attached to the glass.

Another of Aubre’s favorites is one featuring a cognac snifter which reads: ‘On peut prendre un ballon sans devenir rond.’

This is impossible to adapt into English. A ‘ballon’ is a cognac glass or snifter and ‘devenir rond’ means to become so drunk and so round that you can be rolled home. Excellent stuff in French, utterly non-transferable into English.

The tag is ‘La moderation a bien meilleur gout,’ the official English version being: ‘Moderation Tastes So Much Better.’

The message of this campaign and its execution is in stark contrast to a campaign being run by the Societe de l’assurance automobile du Quebec.

The society’s campaign shows in graphic and bloody terms the potential horrific consequences of drinking and driving.

Educ-alcool’s mandate is to educate about drinking and teach people how to drink, which, essentially, consists of telling Quebecers to enjoy their booze, but in reasonable quantities, in one sitting over a given period of time.


‘We’re trying to de-dramatize drinking,’ says Hubert Sacy, partner and vice-president strategic planning.

Sacy is also a member of Educ-alcool’s board of directors and in charge of its public relations.

‘We want to link conviviality with drinking,’ Sacy says.

‘To be sure, we are promoting drinking, but, drinking in moderation, and moderation means, in some cases, you shouldn’t drink at all,’ he says.

‘For example, pregnant women shouldn’t drink, and you shouldn’t drink if you’re driving.’

Sacy says this is the first time the Educ-alcool created a campaign to appeal to the general public. Previous efforts targetted specific groups such as pregnant women, drivers and students.

The six-month campaign includes billboards, toilet posters and magazine ads.

The budget is $400,000, but Sacy says the actual media buy is much larger thanks to special rates provided by the media in support of what they believe is a good cause.

Constantineau says the campaign was ready to go about a year and a half ago but was held up because there was no media budget.

‘The creative concept has been kicking around for awhile and it has also evolved,’ he says.

Michael Judson is president of Judson Woods, an advertising and public relations company in Montreal.