Monday, August 28, 2006

Good Things About France No. 8: Aubade Pubs

Before writing this, I hesitated a moment or two, trying to decide whether Aubade Pubs (short for 'publicité' or 'advertisements' in English) were a 'French Particularity' or a 'Good Thing about France'. It wasn't a very long hesitation...

We had some friends over for dinner the other night, and one of them was complaining of the danger posed by these advertisements to French road users. He said that while riding to work on his bicycle, not only was he distracted, but if a motorist was passing they were also distracted at the same time causing a life-threatening 'double wobble' effect.

While we discussed this effect, our wives looked on quite baffled. Apparently they had never noticed these advertisements, despite the fact these ads are currently afixed to every bus stop in Paris. This must say something about the female psyche, but I'm not sure what. This saturation advertising campaign seems to come once a year, just after the August tanning season.

Each campaign features the release of half-a-dozen new photos, always in the same style and always featuring sleek bottoms and tenuous lace. The women's faces are never included.

There are lingerie ads from other brands, but these Aubade ads are famous, not only for their stylish black and white photography, but also for including quirky 'lingerie-wearing lessons' implanted mid-photo in a font that is rather too small to read at a single glance by passing motorists - hence rendering them even more dangerous.

Each lingerie lesson has a number, and the current batch of ads includes lesson number 75 - emphasising what an institution these ads are. One example which has stuck in my mind was: 'Pose him a metaphysical problem'. This lesson featured a pair of knickers that did, indeed, pose a metaphysical problem: i.e. how was it that a pair of knickers could appear to connect between the legs at the level of the belly-button?

You could say that these ads reduce women to the status of sex objects, and you'd be right. You could say they posed a danger to road users, and you'd also be right. But on the other hand, there is something uplifiting about the cheekiness and humour of them.

And anyway, the roads in France couldn't get much more dangerous, right? And isn't the size of France's population supposed to be shrinking...

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