Is branded entertainment 'Despicable'?

Havas Media adapts ad campaign for French market

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CANNES -- When Universal's animated comedy "Despicable Me" hits French theaters on Wednesday, audiences will be seeing a local version not only in their native language voiced by homegrown talent, but they'll also have their very own advertising campaign thanks to Havas Media's branded entertainment initiative.

Havas brought one of France's biggest supermarket chains Auchan, which boast a €40 billion ($54.7 billion) turnover each year, to Universal's animated title from Chris Meladandri's Illumination Entertainment. Mac Guff, the French FX house behind the animation, was able to use its CGI technology in order to create an ad for Auchan specifically for the French version of the film.

"The CGI technology today allows producers to adapt advertising to each specific country. This is the first time it's been done," Havas Media's president Dominique Delport said in an interview in Cannes. He added: "The future of product placement is digital placement."

So will the Auchan-Universal deal spark more local product placement in animated studio titles?

"2010 is all about 'When Europe meets Product Placement.' We're really in a transitional period between now and 2012," Delport said, adding: "To see a big Hollywood movie featuring a French brand is huge for audiences here."

Because of the financial crisis and the drop in ad revenue on all of France's main terrestrial channels over the past few years, the French networks are looking for other ways of diversification and brand stretching. They're looking for alternative revenue sources outside of traditional media.

"We're out of the crisis now and brands need to reconnect with the consumer," Delport said.

Advertisers of food and beverage such as McDonald's have shied away from major campaigns on French youth programs recently because of a self-imposed will to fight childhood obesity in the territory. Now, however, these brands are looking for new ways to communicate among young consumer populations. That's where Havas comes in.

"We're really seeing a shift from advertising agencies to media agencies. It's a jump from the artisanal to the commercial and from producers to TV networks to film studios, everyone's ready to play the game," Delport said.

Havas Media is present in 150 countries and is already a major media partner for Gallic megabrands like Danone, Carrefour, Hermes, Total, BNP Paribas and L'Oreal. "Our role is to mix media and content. Digital is a great platform to connect the two," Delport said, adding: "Marketing managers are the content managers of tomorrow."

Delport will speak at the "Branded Entertainment Summit" panel at MIPCOM on Tuesday afternoon

From three to five million French filmgoers are expected to head to theaters to see "Despicable Me" when Universal releases the film in France on Wednesday.