Responses by Vanessa Harbec, copywriter and Mathieu Lacombe, art director, Rethink
Background: It’s a well-known fact that English is the world’s leading language for business. Even in countries and cities where English is not the official language, it becomes the common ground and most-used way to conduct business. This is even truer in the Canadian province of Québec, the only place in North America where French is the dominant language. So, we worked with Berlitz Canada on a provincial campaign in Québec to invite French-speaking professionals to learn and perfect their English.
Reasoning: We set out to show, in a clever way, that you’re missing out when you don’t speak the language. All the executions are shown in different professional contexts—a formal client presentation, a 5 à 7 social gathering after work or a casual hallway conversation—where the protagonist becomes part of the furniture and almost erases her or himself from the discussion. We advertised in select business newspapers in the Greater Montreal Metropolitan Area, where a lot of business is done in English, or with the rest of Canada and the United States.
Challenges: The trickiest part was conveying the context, the concept and the brand benefits in single snapshots. We wanted something clever enough to grasp curiosity and interest, yet simple enough that the majority of our targets would get the benefit of learning English and be inclined to act.
Favorite details: We are really proud of the mix between the photographer’s vision and ours, the way Simon Duhamel and his team from Consulat brought the concept to a higher level. We first had something else in mind, but their creative input helped us explore different moments where people can be put aside and feel left out. Together, we thought of the smartest way to focus on the person who is removed—doesn’t speak the language—so that the situation is as clear as possible.
Visual influences: To us, it was very important to show a business environment that is totally different from what we are used to. We wanted to play with materials and textures to give character to our pictures. We decided to shoot in a mid-century office looking where the décor has been kept intact for years.
Specific demands: In Québec, Francophones who don’t speak English have difficulty interacting in business situations. It can even block them in the development of their careers. Fortunately, Berlitz Canada understood this and trusted us enough to let us talk to this often forgotten target.