The Indie List: The French Shop

Making national campaigns make sense for Quebec
The French Shop senior team, from left: Martin Archambault, founder & president; creative directors Valérie Forget, Joëlle Fournier and Geneviève Vincent; account directors Émilie Maranda and Isabelle Harvey; head of production Julie Lorazo; VP client service & strategy Sébastien Bergeron.

The French Shop senior team, from left: Martin Archambault, founder & president; creative directors Valérie Forget, Joëlle Fournier and Geneviève Vincent; account directors Émilie Maranda and Isabelle Harvey; head of production Julie Lorazo; VP client service & strategy Sébastien Bergeron.

It’s a lovely bit of irony that Montreal-based firm The French Shop, while enjoying a high profile among Toronto agencies & clients, is almost completely unknown in Quebec.

That irony is not lost on the firm’s founder, Martin Archambault. ‘What about the French?’ is a phrase that’s no doubt been uttered by anyone in English Canada working on marketing for a national account. More often than not it’s an afterthought in a country where only 21% of the population is francophone and 90% of them live in Quebec.

Archambault himself admits that during his years working as a marketer at Labatt Breweries in Toronto, he experienced it firsthand while working with Toronto-based agencies. “Being a Quebecois, it was obvious to me that some great ideas would not work in Quebec. But for them, translating English executions was enough to make it work in Quebec. They didn’t realize that language was only one of the differences.”

Upon his return to Montreal to go agency-side, he began to think about that. After conversations with agency friends and colleagues, everyone agreed there was a need for a shop focused on localization. So Archambault jumped at the opportunity and started one in 2014.

Campbell’s Goldfish is all about nurturing children’s imaginations. To do so, The French Shop and Zulu Alpha Kilo co-created a Quebec market campaign as part of the Feed Imagination platform, bringing children’s stories to life via a published picture book in collaboration with well-known Quebec children’s illustrator Guillaume Perrault.

Campbell’s Goldfish is all about nurturing children’s imaginations. To do so, The French Shop and Zulu Alpha Kilo co-created a Quebec market campaign as part of the Feed Imagination platform, bringing children’s stories to life via a published picture book in collaboration with well-known Quebec children’s illustrator Guillaume Perrault.

As he explains, “La belle province just isn’t the same. There’s the language, sure, but the culture, heritage, star system, media landscape, market reality and the advertising regulations are really different from those in the rest of Canada.”

Based on filters the shop uses on all of its localization projects, there are three possible routes to take. The first is adaptation.

You have strategy, creative and execution that is relevant to the Quebec market and only need to adapt to French with minimal adjustments. The second is transcreation, when there are things that won’t work in Quebec, but can be tweaked for the market while keeping the same strategy and creative platforms.

The third is when the strategy and creative are great for English Canada but not for Quebec or when the client is in need of a Quebec-specific campaign. In those scenarios, The French Shop will rewrite the brief, formulate the strategy, develop the creative and produce the final result, like a full-service agency.

For an RBC Personal Banking acquisition campaign, The French Shop modified creative to include local celeb Marie-Soleil Dion, as well as her husband Louis-Olivier Mauffette, who is also a well-known Quebec actor. By harnessing affinity with the homegrown star factor, RBC is managing to humanize the brand and compete with Quebec’s well- rooted financial institutions.

For an RBC Personal Banking acquisition campaign, The French Shop modified creative to include local celeb Marie-Soleil Dion, as well as her husband Louis-Olivier Mauffette, who is also a well-known Quebec actor. By harnessing affinity with the homegrown star factor, RBC is managing to humanize the brand and compete with Quebec’s well- rooted financial institutions.

With a huge unmet need, The French Shop grew rapidly, signing 20 agencies in the first two years. “Our model, based on mutual trust, was to help indie Canadian agencies that want to grow their business and be able to tackle national accounts, as well as agencies that are

responsible for both English and French markets but not ready to invest in opening a full office in Montreal.” The French Shop now serves a roster of over 30 clients, 80% of whom are agencies and the rest direct clients.

One of those agencies and long-time partner is Zulu Alpha Kilo. “We tapped into The French Shop’s ‘transcreation’ expertise recently on a project for Goldfish where we needed to do things differently in Quebec because legally, you can’t advertise to kids under the age of 13”, says Mike Sutton, Zulu’s president.

TFS Strategy Indie List 2021_Coke Magician 1

What do you do when you have a great 30-second TV spot from your global asset pool, but can’t run it in Quebec? The French Shop proposed that Coca-Cola keep the same creative platform, but work with well-known Quebec magician Luc Langevin to develop unique magic tricks, and in collaboration with lead agency The Hive, produced a new execution with French-speaking talents.

For the past three years The French Shop has also managed Tim Horton’s localization projects. In an example of full-on localization, they marked St. Jean-Baptiste day by turning everything at a single Montreal location – the signage, the chairs, the coffee cups, the uniforms – from red to blue. And for that week, every single Tim’s coffee cup in Quebec was also turned blue. There was no media investment, but it drove broad organic coverage across both TV and digital channels.

Coca-Cola has also been another important client for several years. It all started while collaborating with Juliet, one of Coca- Cola’s lead agencies, on a Nestea campaign for the Quebec market. Coca-Cola’s clients, who didn’t know TFS at the time, were so impressed that they asked the firm to provide localization for Coca-Cola’s entire portfolio, from retail communications to traditional advertising. Their latest achievement was an original TV spot for Coca-Cola that aired during the New Year’s Eve Bye-Bye TV show, Quebec’s equivalent of the Super Bowl for advertisers.

Tim Hortons asked TFS to reconnect with the Quebec market, and what better way to celebrate Quebec culture than wishing Québécois a “Bonne St-Jean” with the “Je Tim en bleu” concept. Guests at one Tim Hortons restaurant were surprised on June 24th when everythings had been changed from red to blue, recreating a typical St-Jean party outside.

Tim Hortons asked TFS to reconnect with the Quebec market, and what better way to celebrate Quebec culture than wishing Québécois a “Bonne St-Jean” with the “Je Tim en bleu” concept. Guests at one Tim Hortons restaurant were surprised on June 24th when everythings had been changed from red to blue, recreating a typical St-Jean party outside.

The French Shop has also enjoyed a long relationship with Grip, with whom they share the RBC account. After working with the bank on several different assignments, RBC Ventures appointed The French Shop as its Quebec AOR for a home reno app called SmartReno.

In the face of all the challenges 2020 brought, Archambault’s model has proven resilient. Rather than reduce its ranks, The French Shop added to the team and produced over twenty new

Campaigns since March. With no signs of slowing down, it’s just a question of time before TFS becomes as known in Quebec as it is in Toronto.

CONTACT:
Martin Archambault
Founder/President
martin@thefrenchshop.ca