Tuesday, September 8, 2009

THE LAST BITE by P.B. Lecron

When porno-chic ads for luxury goods, at first reserved for the pages of high-fashion magazines, began spilling over into French streets a few years ago, many wondered just how far the ads would and could go. School boys squirmed, teenagers smirked and tired mothers sometimes wilted at the sight of them.

Created  in-house by trend-setting haute couture names, and of the highest professional and aesthetic quality, the porno-chic ads were often veritable works of art depicting all sorts of nuanced tabous. But when the eyebrow-raising ad trend took hold and trickled down to commonplace, bas de gamme product lines, the obvious happened.  The fashion industry made an about face and headed off into a more well-behaved direction.

At the tail-end of the trend, signaling that what-was-hot-is-not, was an ad that I don't think I'll ever be able to forget...

From a distance it looked like any other non-descript fastfood ad, which even here in France, we had become accustomed to see. But as I approached the neighborhood bus stop publicity panel, it became clear that this was the strangest advertisement for a hamburger I had ever seen on either side of the Atlantic.

The ad for Quick, a major European-owned fastfood chain heavily implanted in France, featured a photo of its latest burger and read in big block letters: "Votre estomac aussi a le droit d'avoir un orgasme."  Translated: "Your stomach also has the right to have an orgasm." Would that be an unsettling rumble of indigestion?

I couldn't help but wonder what kind of ambience reigned during the brainstorming session that produced this ad.  Did this give new meaning to "fastfood?"  In France, of all places, how could a lowly hamburger--albeit it embellished with bacon--make such an unlikely incursion into the realm of sensual gastronomy?

By necessity, food ads have to make a direct appeal to primary instincts, but this one seemed overly inclusive even for the toga party crowd.  While it's fatal for an advertisement to go unnoticed, the shock-value metaphor used here felt more like an unappealing collision of biological functions rather than a ringing of the appetite alarm.

I don't mean to be a killjoy, but while the younger rebel set might have gobbled up this brazen burger ad, it must have been hard-to-swallow for the unsuspecting mother who happened along with an inquisitive eight-year-old who plied her with the inevitable question.

What's she supposed to say, ask your father?

I asked my guitar-strumming, skateboarding, Franco-American hybrid teenagers what they thought about this ad, and they both replied, "Bof," which in French roughly means, "Big deal."

My very French fourteen-year-old did comment that the hamburger ad went too far, but not for the reasons I would have expected. His complaint was about the ad's hyperbole and gave me eye-opening evidence of his budding epicurism.

"It's not as though that burger chain were a Michelin three-star restaurant," he reasoned. A logic which presupposes that some meals here do merit the metaphor...



  1. Funny :) I would only think that chocolate would merit the metaphor.

  2. ckh: I think we may have a few points in common!