Air France: Reclaiming French stereotypes

A Paris-centric view of France? Copyright Air France (vintage poster)
A Paris-centric view of France? Copyright Air France (vintage poster)

 

France, in the media: A depressed, immobile and arrogant nation, turned towards her once glorious past.

France, in Air France‘s ambitious new advertising campaign (spring 2014:) Traditional yet modern, dynamic, and enjoying the finest things in life with panache and joie de vivre.

It is unfortunate Air France made the headlines this Fall because of a costly and damaging strike that lasted several weeks. A few months earlier, the company was in the news for an entirely different reason.

Like Orangina, another iconic French brand, Air France has always invested in advertising. Collectors covet vintage posters of the company’s past advertising efforts. The spring 2014 campaign was a hit with professionals and the general public. Many labeled it daring, and even revolutionary.

First, the new slogan. “France is in the air.” In English, no less. Who said France was not modern, and open to the rest of the world?

Then, the posters. The six main visuals in the campaign play like an A-B-C of the much-publicized French way of life (or at least the perception of said way of life around the world.) Even as they pitch Air France‘s newest products (the spacious A380, the new First and Business classes, on-board gastronomy, SkyPriority boarding,) the playful and witty posters stand out in their own right, irresistible vignettes full of Frenchitude. The message is clear: Fly with Air France and get a small piece of France!

I find them delightful, and representative of aesthetics-minded France. The French Revolution, Versailles and the beautiful Le Nôtre gardens, the Sun King and Marie-Antoinette, the Moulin Rouge, gourmet food. Playing off stereotypes? Provocative? Who cares? They grab our attention. We relate. They work. Some favorites of mine include:

Her Majesty, the A380
Her Majesty, the A380 – Copyright Air France, 2014

 

"The soaring palace. New First Class suite." Copyright Air France, 2014
“The soaring palace. New First Class suite.” Copyright Air France, 2014

 

"Revolutionary comfort. New Business Class seat." A French queen or a Revolutionary who has sold out? Copyright Air France, 2014
“Revolutionary comfort. New Business Class seat.” A French queen or a Revolutionary who has sold out? Copyright Air France, 2014

 

Exciting destinations. Le Moulin Rouge. Paris as the center of the world. Copyright Air France, 2014
Exciting destinations. Le Moulin Rouge. Paris as the center of the world. Copyright Air France, 2014
Indulge in Haute Cuisine. Refined menus by French chefs. Copyright Air France 2014
Indulge in Haute Cuisine. Refined menus by French chefs. Copyright Air France 2014

 

The campaign also included 12 visuals illustrating popular Air France destinations. Once again, exuberance and irreverence were de rigueur. Some did not like it, and the campaign was criticized for over-stereotyping (They pointed out Air France used Caucasian models to represent Asian and African-American women.)

A faux pas? Copyright Air France 2014
A faux pas? Copyright Air France 2014

 

Copyright Air France 2014
Copyright Air France 2014

This one is a winner:

 

God save the Queen! Copyright Air France 2014
God save the Queen! Copyright Air France 2014

 

Further research reveals the French company is not the first, or the only airline, to use national stereotypes to get a sales message across. Some are pretty obvious – obvious, if you reach the largest number of people, also means effective. Look at this selection of vintage posters. No harm intended, and none taken:

Air India's 1963 award winning advertising campaign
Air India’s 1963 award-winning advertising campaign

 

Copyright Alitalia
Copyright Alitalia


PanamParis
TWA France

TransCanadaParis

 

It seems Paris, and France, continue to inspire graphic designers (and travelers.) I would be happy to find any of these vintage posters and hang them in my living room. What about you?

Air France‘s timely new campaign reminds us that if morosity and angst inspire writers and journalists, légèreté and joie de vivre are much sexier… And if these colorful posters have not cheered you up yet, check out Air France‘s website where coach class menus are described in titillating detail. Revolutionary, non? Who knew airlines still cared so much about… food?

Best-kept secret about airline food: It disappeared with TWA, only to be replaced by pretzels, Two-Buck Chuck and gloubi-boulga (mush.) That is my theory, and I am sticking with it.

AirlineFoodTWA

 

Bon voyage, and safe travels. I am not flying abroad any time soon, but until then, I can count on Air France to transport me, one entertaining poster at a time.

A bientôt.

GIVEAWAY RESULTS:

Thank you for all your entries after last week’s post! I appreciate your input, and all your friendly messages. Félicitations to Melissa Bauer, our winner.
Melissa, please contact me and let me know what prize you are interested in.

We will be happy to ship your book of choice to you as soon as you contact us with your address.

Dear readers:

If you enjoy exploring France and French culture like a native, consider signing up for la Mailing List to receive exclusive travel stories first via email, or join me daily on Facebook and Instagram.

What did you think about this article? Let me know in the comment section below, (I love reading your messages and reply to most.) Don’t be selfish and share with a friend! Merci. Véronique (French Girl in Seattle)

16 Comments

    • I am with you, Nadège. One of my prized possessions is a framed vintage Art Deco poster of Nice and the French Riviera. It looks spectacular, and towers over the main room in my new apartment. I smile every time I look at it (which is often.) I have always enjoyed creative advertising, “à la Orangina…” Bonne semaine !

  • Yay that’s me! So excited that I won one of those fabulous books!Looking forward to reading it and of course many more new blog posts.

  • I did not know about the new advertising push this year-I flew air france on my very first trip to france and remember the service well-hot moist towels before landing in the wee hours of the morning-I love advertising posters too– especially vintage ones bravo for you having what sounds like a large one in the main room-this was a very enlightening post and has me dreaming of france as USUAL. Have a wonderful week and must say again LOVE THE NEW LOOK!!

    • Merci beaucoup my dear g. I was lucky to be able to fly from Seattle to Paris when they opened the non-stop flight a few years ago. I must say it was an excellent experience. Eventually, Air France’s partner Delta Airlines took over, with mixed results. Dommage. This should be a good week, provided we don’t drown. I am afraid Seattle has entered Monsoon season.

    • Thank you for stopping by Peter. I wonder if the Queen would approve of the Air France ad? 😉 I hear she has a good sense of humor. I have seen versions of the main 6 visuals in American publications (Travel and Leisure as I recall.) What a fun and creative campaign! Bonne semaine à Paris.

  • I like your new blog site, excellent work by you and Daria. Interesting posters by Air France. I really like the first one over Versailles, tres bon! Hope there is a flight in my future, smile.

  • En France, “Air France” a plutôt la réputation d’être une compagnie chère et snob, surtout utilisée par des étrangers fortunés. Cette campagne publicitaire risque de conforter cette opinion (sauf pour Londres !). Malgré cela elle reste, pour les français, un élément de fierté, même si bien peu d’entre eux ont les moyens de se payer un aller retour Paris-New-York en 1° classe. (12 000 Euros selon “Le Point”)

    • Merci de ce point de vue intéressant, Alain. La majorité des visuels cultive certainement l’esprit “luxe” et quelque peu élitiste de la compagnie. Il y en avait aussi un (que je n’ai pas utilisé,) pour souligner la nouvelle politique de prix “low cost.” C’est vrai que les Français reste très fier d’Air France, et à juste titre. J’en fais partie et espère un jour pouvoir voler avec la compagnie un peu plus souvent… Malheureusement, elle a déserté Seattle après une tentative de courte durée…

  • Bonjour Véronique! I can see that you have been rather busy whilst I have been away on holiday and le blog has moved over here! Firstly the new blog looks very attractive and I love the header with the cute dog! I’m now subscribing by email. I thoroughly enjoyed this post! The new posters are fabulous and so creative. I’ve been fortunate to fly on the amazing A380 with Emirates. I would certainly like to experience Air France’s new ‘refined menus’ especially those rather tempting desserts!

    • Bienvenue chez moi, miss b. You are always welcome here! I would love to fly on the A380 one day. That must be quite the adventure. Like you, I would not mind enjoying some of the desserts offered in the Air France menu. Kuddos to them for trying to keep the Magic alive. So many other airlines have given up, it seems…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *