Taxi cooks up tasty campaign for pork

Pork producers in Quebec were in a strange predicament - they produced one of Quebec's strongest exports, yet consumption in the province was relatively low.To overcome this incongruity, the Quebec Federation of Pork Producers asked Taxi Advertising in Montreal to develop...

Pork producers in Quebec were in a strange predicament – they produced one of Quebec’s strongest exports, yet consumption in the province was relatively low.

To overcome this incongruity, the Quebec Federation of Pork Producers asked Taxi Advertising in Montreal to develop a campaign that would improve pork’s image as the poor cousin of chicken and beef.

This meant conveying a lot of information about pork, and suggesting easy and inventive ways of preparing it.

Taxi took this idea, looked at its predominantly francophone market, and came up with a campaign that was distinctly Quebecois and made pork look more than just tasty.

They managed to give pork an air of sophistication and even… sexuality.

This seemingly impossible achievement could only have been conceived by an agency that really grasps Quebec’s culture.

The Taxi campaign hinged on the use of the word ‘cochon,’ French for ‘pig.’

But the word cochon in Quebec has a second meaning that does not translate well into English, but suggests a certain kinkyness.

A cochon, for lack of a better translation, is a bit of a pervert.

By incorporating this word into advertising that otherwise simply explained how to cook pork, Taxi lent it an engaging sexual innuendo.

In one print ad, an elderly woman stares bug-eyed at the reader and exclaims in large type,’I have a piggish way that takes less than 5 minutes.’

This was followed by a simple recipe for pork escallops.

In another ad, a rather homely man asserts that if he had his way he would have his pig every day, before going on to explain that he does not overcook pork, and that it is best with a rose or white wine.

A woman sneers impudently from another ad and claims that her pig is very good, but does not take long.

She goes on to describe a conversation she has with her butcher in which both declare the virtues of Quebec pork.

Taxi also slipped in a recipe for minced pork spread.

In a fourth ad, a strong-looking young woman says she does her pig quickly, before outlining yet another quick and easy recipe for pork steaks.

The ads ran in magazines and on television starting in 1993. A second round will run early next year.

Paul Lavoie, president and creative director of Taxi, says that although the campaign, for obvious reasons, would not have been directly translatable to the English Canadian market, the agency would not have shied away from trying something similar had it been given that mandate.

He says the use of the word cochon was simply an example of a local opportunity that would have been foolish to pass up.

The idea of using humor to help communicate a lot of otherwise commonplace information would probably have worked in different markets across the country.

Lavoie feels that devices such as sexual innuendo are legitimate anywhere, if appropriate and employed tastefully.

‘Our philosophy is that we do campaigns,’ Lavoie says.

‘We look at the universal idea, which is as pertinent to a French-Canadian as an English-Canadian,’ he says.

Lavoie says Taxi’s preference when moving between languages is to use what it believes is one of these universal concepts and ‘tweak’ it for each market.

But, Lavoie warns that moving between cultures can be hazardous, and he cautions not to make any assumptions.

‘Throw out what you know,’ Lavoie says. ‘Look at the market [you are moving into]. See if there are similarities or differences, and work with them.

Lavoie warns against thinking there are rules about advertising in either market.

‘They don’t exist,’ he says. ‘Sometimes, we find a real difference, and, sometimes, we find enough similarities to make the advertising work in both markets.’

Even working on the assumption that any market has to be given great scrutiny before devising a strategy, Lavoie concedes there are some guidelines advertisers can follow when trying to get to know their French-Canadian market.

‘The biggest thing is that Quebecers have a clearer sense of identity, of their culture, than English-Canadians do,’ he says.

‘When they turn on the television, they see a mirror. The majority of French television is produced in Quebec.

‘When English-Canadians sit down, they see America. That has contributed to Quebec[ers] having a clearer sense of themselves.

Lavoie describes the Quebec culture as paradoxical. Behavior in one category can be very different to that in another.

‘The Quebec consumer is unpredictable sometimes,’ he says.