On the cynicism of advertisers and their employers

Table of contents:

On the cynicism of advertisers and their employers
On the cynicism of advertisers and their employers

A new edition of Begbede's cult novel " 9.99 BGN" has been published - the current title is " 6.66 euros", and the translation is entrusted to Krasimir Petrov.

This is an eerie tale told cleverly - a ruthless novel about everyday manipulation, about marketing totalitarianism, the cynicism of advertisers and their employers, about spineless "Anglophones" and the general stupidity of consumption. Octave makes a living by lying to us, and he gets paid handsomely for it. He is that omnipresent dictator of taste who decides what is True, Beautiful, and Good.

He chooses our dreams, defines our idols and puts them on billboards because his motto is "I spend, therefore I exist" and man is a commodity (like any other) and has an expiration date.

“They say that in the hour of death one's whole life passes before one's eyes, but something else passes before Patrick's eyes: You cannot imagine what Citroën can do for you - Carrefour is ready to make every day new – Nokia_connecting people – Masculine perfection waistcoat – Nina Ricci’s Belle de Minuet before you the boy kneels – Gaze de France for you is a chance – United colors of Benetton – Club Mediterranee at least one more time – Jopple so much better – With Air France the sky becomes the best place on earth – Givenchy a little further from infinity – Ron Poulenc welcome to a better world…”…


Frédéric Begbede came from a we althy family, studied at the prestigious lycées Montaigne and Louis-le-Grand, and later political science in Paris. He has a degree in marketing, practices his profession in a famous advertising agency, works as a publicist and TV reporter. His literary exploits are many and are distinguished by their gracefully unceremonious style, scathing irony, provocative analyzes and eccentric assessments. Among his most influential works are the novels "Love Lasts Three Years", "Rest in a Coma", "A French Novel", which won the Renaud Award, and, of course, "6.66 Euros", screened in 2007 under the direction by Jan Kunen. The film is a brilliant black satire and deservedly won a Lumiere Award and was also nominated for a César.


Everything is transitory: love, art, planet earth, you, me. Death is so inevitable that it catches everyone off guard. How does a person know if today is not his last day? You always think you have time, and suddenly you find yourself drowning. It turns out that your allotted time has expired. The meeting with death is the only one you forgot to note in your organizer.

Anything can be bought: love, art, planet earth, you, me. I'm writing this book to get fired. If I leave voluntarily, I will not receive compensation. That is why I have to cut off the branch on which my well-being rests. My freedom is called unemployment insurance. I'd rather be fired from the company than out of life. BECAUSE I'M AFRAID. Colleagues around me are dying like flies: cardiac arrest in a swimming pool, cocaine overdose masquerading as a myocardial infarction, private jet crash, convertible pirouette. Well, last night, for example, I dreamed that I was drowning. I saw myself sinking, petting giant manta rays, my lungs filling with water. Somewhere far from the beach, a beautiful lady was calling me. I couldn't answer her because there was s alt water in my mouth. I was drowning but I didn't cry for help. And all that were in the sea did likewise. The swimmers sank without calling for help. I think it's time to let it all go because I can't stay afloat anymore.

Everything is transitory and everything can be bought. A person is a commodity like any other, with an expiration date. That's why I decided to retire years ago. This seems to be the perfect age for resurrection.

My name is Octav and I buy my clothes from APS. I am an advertiser by profession: yes, I am the one who pollutes the environment. I'm the same guy who pushes all kinds of junk at you. Who makes you dream of things that will never be yours. For eternal blue skies, for eternally beautiful chicks, for perfect photoshopped happiness. Slicked photos, fashion hits. But when, after a long period of belt-tightening, you finally manage to buy the car of your dreams, the same one I offered in the last ad campaign, keep in mind that I will have already worn it out of fashion. I will always be three laps ahead of you and make sure you feel played. The land of dreams will always remain inaccessible to you. I am making you addicted to the drug called "novelty," and the advantage of any novelty is that it ceases to be new very quickly. There will always be a new novelty to make the previous one obsolete. My calling is to make you drool all the time. In my industry, nobody wants your happiness because the happy don't consume.

Your torments encourage trade. In our lingo, we call this "post-shopping disappointment." You really want to buy something, but you just got it, and now you need another one. Hedonism is not humanism, but cash flow. And do you know what his motto is? "I spend, therefore I exist." But in order to awaken some need in a person, it is necessary to ignite in his soul envy, bitterness, gluttony - these are my weapons. And the target is you.

I make a living by lying to you and I get paid handsomely for it. I get €13,000 (not counting the executive, company car, stock options and golden parachute). The euro was specifically invented to make the obscenely high incomes of the rich look six times more modest. Tell me, how many of your acquaintances at my age have a salary of 13 thousand euros? I'm messing with your heads and in return I get a brand new Mercedes SLK (with all the extras) or a BMW Z3 or a Porsche Boxster or a Mazda MX5.(Personally, I have a weakness for the BMW Z3 – it combines the aerodynamic aesthetics of the coupe with the power of the six-cylinder engine of 321 hp, thanks to which it has acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.4 seconds. Moreover, this car externally resembles a gigantic suppository, which is quite practical if one decides to knock it on Earth.)

I'm the one who interrupts the movies on TV to force some logo on you, and in return they pay me a vacation to St. Barts, Lamu, Phuket or Laskaban (Kersey). I'm the one who fills your favorite magazines with ads and as a reward I get a country house in Provence or a castle in Périgord or a villa in Corsica or a farm in the Ardeche or a palace in Morocco or a catamaran in the Antilles or a yacht in Saint Tropez. I Am Omnipresent. You can't escape me. Wherever you turn, my advertisement is already reigning there. I forbid you to be bored. It prevents you from thinking. The terrorism of the "new" helps me sell emptiness. Ask any surfer and they will explain that in order to stay afloat, there must be a cavity underneath. Surfing is sliding over a gaping pit (internet fans know this no worse than the Lacano champions). I am the one who decides what is True, what is Beautiful and what is Good. I'm the one casting the mannequins that will make you gag in half a year. I'll poke them in your eyes long enough and eventually you'll call them top models; my girls are able to complex any woman over the age of 14. You will worship my chosen ones. This winter, models with breasts above the shoulders and shaved between the legs will be in fashion. The more skillfully I play with your subconscious, the more willingly you obey me. If I put up posters advertising yogurt on the walls of your city, I can guarantee you that you will start buying it. You imagine you have freedom of choice, but sooner or later you'll spot the relevant product on the supermarket shelf and reach for it ostensibly just to try it, but trust me, I know my stuff.

Mmm, how nice to penetrate your brain. With what delight I possess your right hemisphere. You no longer have your own desires because I impose mine on you. I forbid you to wish for coincidences. Your wish is the result of the investment of billions of euros. Today I decide what you will want tomorrow.

As a result of all this, you probably don't like me very much. In general, when an author starts writing a book, he should try to present himself in a positive light, but I have no intention of hiding the truth: I am not one of the flattering storytellers. I would rather describe myself as a malicious scoundrel who pollutes everything he touches. Ideally, you should hate me first before you hate the time that produced me.

Isn't it amazing how much everyone takes this situation for granted? I'm sick of you miserable slaves obeying my every whim. Why did you let me become the Lord of the World? I would like to reveal the following secret: how is it that at the crest of our cynical age Advertising has been proclaimed supreme ruler? Never in two thousand years has a jerk like me possessed such power.

I feel like dropping everything, getting out of here, grabbing my earnings, stocking up on drugs, taking two or three whores with me and leaving for some desert island. (I would watch Soraya and Tamara caress each other all day long, and polish my cane by the way.) But I can't wait to leave. That's why I'm writing this book. Getting fired will allow me to escape this golden cage. I'm dangerous, have mercy, stop me before it's too late! Give me a hundred grand in compensation and I'll be gone, honest word! Is it my fault that humanity has decided to replace God with consumer goods?

I'm smiling because if the book takes off and it goes out of print, I'll get a raise instead of a kick in the ass. In the world I am about to describe to you, criticism is swallowed up, insolence is encouraged, slander is paid, and insults are ordered by the insulted. Soon they will start awarding the Nobel Prize for provocation, and in this respect there will hardly be a candidate who can compare with me. Rebellion is part of the game. Once upon a time, dictators were afraid of freedom of speech, censored dissent, imprisoned writers, burned ambitious books. In the good old days of nasty auto dafts, it was possible to tell the good from the bad. Advertising totalitarianism is where it is more cunning and can easily wash its hands. This new fascism has learned from previous failures (Berlin in '45 and Berlin in '89; why did all the barbaric dictatorships die in the same city?).

In order to enslave humanity, advertising has chosen the roundabout way, the cunning suggestion. We live under the first system of domination of man over man, against which even freedom is powerless. On the contrary, this system bets above all on freedom, and this is its greatest discovery. Every criticism flatters her, every pamphlet reinforces the illusion of her sweet tolerance. She subdues you exquisitely. Everything is allowed, no one will lay a finger on you, no matter what kind of mess you make. The system has achieved its goal: even disobedience has become a form of obedience.

Our broken destinies are wrapped in a beautiful package. I am sure that even you who are reading this book are saying to yourself, “What a nice guy this advertiser is who spits at the well he drinks from; hang up your rags, there's nowhere to hide, and you pay your taxes like everyone else." It is true that there is no way out. All exits are welded, and with a smile. You're stuck with loan maturities, monthly payments, rent payments. Wondering what to do? Just look at how many unemployed people are waiting for your place. You can grumble all you want, Churchill found the answer long ago: "This is the worst system, except for all the others." Note that he is not trying to deceive us. It doesn't say "the best system", it says the worst.

This morning at 9 o'clock I had breakfast with the Marketing Director of the Fresh Products Division of Maddon, one of the largest agri-food corporations in the world (turnover in 1998 84.848 billion francs, or 12.935 billion euros), in a steel and glass bunker designed in the spirit of Albert Speer. To penetrate it, one must show a pass: the yogurt empire is more heavily guarded than a military facility. Never before have dairy products been so well protected. Only expiration date plates are missing above the automatic doors. I was handed a magnetic card to use the elevators, then I went through a subway-like revolving door and for a moment I felt like an important bird about to meet the President of the Republic, when in reality I was supposed to see an old economist in a striped shirt. In the elevator, I mentally recited a verse from Michel Welbeck:

In shiny nickel elevators

toward our Calvary we fly, and the secretaries next to us in the corridor

hastily fixing their makeup.

I felt kind of weird being part of this cold quatrain.

I thought seriously and came to the conclusion that for me the meeting this morning was more important than a meeting with the head of state. In fact, it turned out to be the most important in my life, as it predetermined all subsequent events.

On the eighth floor, the bosses of "Madonna" walk around in striped shirts and ties with images of various animals. The marketing director terrorizes his female assistants, puffy with unshed tears. His name is Alfred Dueler. Alfred Dühler starts every meeting the same way: "We are here not for our own pleasure, but to please the user." It's as if the user in question is a creature of another breed, some kind of 'undermanche'. This Dühler is driving me nuts, and for a guy like him who works in the food industry, it's frankly quite inappropriate. I imagine him shaving in the morning, tying his tie, tormenting his children with his bad breath, listening to France Enfo on the radio at full blast, reading Eco in the kitchen while drinking his coffee. He hasn't slept with his wife since 1975, but he hasn't cheated on her either (as long as she does!), he reads one book a year, mostly written by Alain Duhamel. He wears expensive suits, genuinely believes he plays a key role in the holding company, owns a huge Mercedes that roars into traffic, and a Motorola cell phone that beeps in a leather case hanging above the car's Pioneer radio that echoes ads: "Casto-Casto-Castorama", "Mammoth crushes prices", "Choose wisely, choose BYT". He is convinced that a return to economic growth is good news, when in reality this growth means nothing more than the "overproduction" (Karl Marx) of a mountain of completely useless goods that will one day, sooner or later, overwhelm us. He maintains within himself the Faith that was drilled into his head during his studies at the Higher Commercial School: "Believe in the Growth of Production". Let's produce loads of goods and we'll be happy! Glory to the expansion, it drives the factories, and they fuel the expansion! The main thing is not to stop for a moment and not to think about him very much!

We are sitting in a dreary meeting room, such as is found in all office buildings around the world, around a large oval table in front of glasses of orange juice, and behind us is the slave secretary, who brings a thermos of coffee with a downcast look; from the armpits of those present wafts the smell of sour sweat, a memory of last night's late meetings.

Düller opens the meeting by immediately specifying that “everything that is said here is confidential; minutes will not be kept; this meeting is being held in crisis conditions; we need to pay attention to the level of repeat purchases, but I am concerned about the demand issue; a competitor enters the market and starts an active advertising campaign of an imitation product; according to data from several sources, competitors intend to take away part of the market from us, so we are certainly a victim of aggression." Everyone present raised their eyebrows for a moment. Only the helmets, khaki uniforms and staff cards are missing to make everything look like a still from the movie The Longest Day.

After the usual weather comments, Jean-Francois, Director of Clients at our agency, takes the floor to briefly describe the initial assignment, turning on the projector and showing slides on the wall.

– I will now offer you the script of the thirty second clip designed to protect Megrelet from the attack of the counterfeit product distributors. I remind you of the strategic task we set ourselves at the previous meeting: "In the conditions of an eroded market, Megrelet intends to offer an innovative product with a new image of yogurt in a new ergonomic packaging".

He looks up from his notes and changes the slide. A diagram appears on the wall in bold letters:

Moderate campaign results (continued):

Emotional Characteristics

For gluttons/irresistible

Pleasure/Fashion MEGRELET Slim Body/Beauty

He alth/Nutrition

Rational Characteristics

Since no one makes a sound, he continues to repeat what his assistant (whose child is about to get otitis media in the nursery at this point) has printed out on Word 6:

– According to the decision we made together with Luke and Alfred at twenty-three, our efforts were focused on highlighting the benefit to consumers: "With Megrelet I will stay in shape while eating sensibly thanks to the increased content of vitamins and calcium". In this crowded sector of marketing, the analysis of competing brands showed that it is necessary to bet on the double formula: beauty + he alth. "Megrelet" is good for the body and the mind. In a word, from the feet to the head. Hee hee…

This speech is the result of the efforts of the Strategic Planning Department (two depressed forty-year-old employees) and two Deputy Directors of Advertising (Dijon Graduate School of Commerce). She corresponds above all to the wishes and tastes of the client and tries to justify in advance the scenario that was born yesterday evening. Jeff stops giggling at this point, because I guess no one else is having fun. All he has to do is continue his belly dance:

– We have developed a unified concept that I believe is consistent with the core strategy while allowing for maximum impact as far as the product offering is concerned, specifically at the level of the visual code. Well, now I have to give the floor to Octave.

Since the Octave in question is me myself, I have to get up and in grave silence to outline the project and the parameters of the clip with the help of twelve colorful pictures drawn by our artist for an insultingly high fee.

Popular topic