Think politics

Quebecers have a thing for politics. But when you marry that insight to ballsy creativity and unblemished execution you get Parti Bleue: a true-to-life political campaign - with PM candidate - that rivalled the real-life politicians during last year's federal election.

Quebecers have a thing for politics. But when you marry that insight to ballsy creativity and unblemished execution you get Parti Bleue: a true-to-life political campaign – with PM candidate – that rivalled the real-life politicians during last year’s federal election.

Here’s how it started: Labatt Blue’s national brand manager Stéphane Duval admits he was looking for a big stunt, something, he says today, ‘to take dust off the brand.’ The election was the perfect platform.

Along with the help of Montreal’s BBDO, they created the fictitious Blue Party (Parti Bleue), set up party headquarters in the agency’s offices, meticulously media trained an actor/radio personality to become PM candidate Jonathan Bleue and wrapped a campaign bus which espoused the party’s politick of Le Pouvoir de Fun (The Power of Fun).

Bleue then toured the province in said bus visiting constituents in bars and making media stops at television and radio stations. Early morning campaign strategy meetings and daily press releases also figured into the mix. ‘We managed it like a real campaign,’ says Duval.

Clearly. They even delivered on their campaign promise of creating a better world for 18-24s by reimbursing taxes on all sales of DVDs and CDs at an HMV in downtown Montreal one weekend (to the tune of about $2,000) and ‘improving’ health care by updating the magazines in several hospitals across the province.

It was 30 days of unpredictable, up-to-the-minute creative culminating in an election night party, which was broadcast on MusiquePlus and generated 47,000 ticket requests, 1,200 attendees and 125,000 viewers.

‘When you behave differently, you get marks for that,’ Duval says by way of explaining why the parody worked so well in the province. Moreover, Duval says there was an impressive 90% ad recall in a category where ads are increasingly indiscernible.

‘We weren’t trying to be cool and show beautiful girls,’ adds CD Martin Beauvais. ‘We were coming out of left field.’ So left that the campaign wasn’t built around TV spots. In fact, says Beauvais, TV made up the smallest component of the campaign, with just three intentionally unslick TV spots modeled after the real Parliament Hill shtick. ‘We had Jonathan in a construction hat,’ Beauvais quips. ‘We made [the ads] look as cheap as a regular party ad.’

Beauvais says the campaign worked especially well because elections have a different meaning in Quebec, stirring up old feelings of sovereignty and being a special society. But for the campaign’s target, the 18- to 24-year-old male, the tongue-in-cheek approach which poked fun at something held so dear by older folks made the campaign even more beguiling.

And apparently believable. In

a pre-election newspaper poll in Sherbrooke, Beauvais chuckles, the party ranked amongst the real parties. It’s not only the campaign that has fared well: Duval was awarded, just late last month, a major marketing award at the Association marketing de Montréal for his efforts.

So what’s next? Well, after Jonathan Bleue’s successful debut CD, Réveillons Noel, which poked fun at classic Quebecois Christmas songs (all 13,000 copies sold out), Labatt has evolved the character even more. This summer, Bleue’s back, this time on beer bottlenecks with 48 cheeky Dr.Phil-Oprah-esque maxims (Si ton verre est à moitié vide, ton ventre est à moitié plein. Translation: If your glass is half empty, your stomach is half full)

And with the Gomery Inquiry and the possibly pending election causing such a ruckus are the creative wheels churning?

‘Big time,’ says Beauvais.