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How To Make A Cannes Contender: Canal+ “The Bear”

With Cannes underway, we talk with creatives about the key decisions that helped them transform their visions into award-worthy campaigns. Here, the creative minds behind agency BETC’s “The Bear” for Canal Plus discuss their award-winning spot, in contention for a top Cannes Film prize.

How To Make A Cannes Contender: Canal+ “The Bear”

French broadcaster Canal+ focuses on two things: movies and football. So the channel takes its film cred seriously and has, over the past several years, created a string of big, cinematic ads designed to promote and reflect the movie mandate. Past ads, like “March of the Emperors” and “The Closet” made the brand and its agency BETC award show regulars (the latter was 2010’s most awarded commercial). Their latest award-winning spot “The Bear,” introduces Paul Bearman, an ursine cinephile whose love for film arose from the floor and a clear vantage point on Canal Plus’ content. With the ad in contention for the Film Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Lions festival, BETC’s art director Eric Astourge, and copywriter Jean-Christophe Royer “The Bear” discuss what went into the spot and what it’s done for the brand.

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Co.Create: What was the brief?
ASTOURGE et ROYER: The brief was to reassure the French audience about the high quality of the programming and of Canal+’s great dedication to movies and filmmaking.

How did you get to the bigger idea here? What was the breakthrough?

Our first thought was that Canal+ has brought the French people so many great movies for so many years that it actually has contributed to building a cinema culture in France. Canal+ is not only a movie broadcaster, but a channel that loves cinema: Apart from showing movies, Canal+ also produces a lot of documentaries to educate about cinema, directing, production, and co-production. So watching Canal+ makes people love cinema: “The more you watch Canal Plus, the more you love cinema.” It became obvious to us that someone (or something) exposed all day long to Canal+ programs would inevitably become passionate about cinema. A Bear Rug, for example.

What greater dream for a real cinema lover than to work in the trade himself? So our bear decided to become a famous director. It was also a good way to show Canal+’s savoir-faire in movie-making by doing a commercial that shows all the steps in the making of a big movie.

What were some of the key choices that made this project really work and made it successful from an awards standpoint and a general audience standpoint?

The choice of director was crucial. We approached Matthijs Van Heijningen, with whom we already worked during the creation of “The Closet” two years ago.

The commercial had to be funny, spectacular, realistic, and interesting. We decided to shoot the spot with a real actor playing the bear in order to give a real personality to the bear (impossible when you shoot with animatronics or just CGI), and then, replace him with a CGI bear rug.

The opening scene was also very important in two ways: First, it had to show the quality of Canal+ movies; then it had to be as spectacular as possible in order for the bear’s appearance to be totally unexpected. The rest of the commercial was shot like a “behind-the-scenes” documentary to make it as realistic as possible.

We think that the success of this commercial is based on things like a simple and accurate idea, a funny script, great acting, spectacular film direction–and three month of special effects work.

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What has this done for the brand?

The film had a very good impact on the target audience, and the results are tremendous in terms of perception. Canal+ is now taken very seriously as a brand that share its passion for cinema with its customers. Above all, French people seemed to like it a lot, as it has the best scores ever recorded in terms of originality for a Canal+ advertisement.

About the author

KC works covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America" where he was the social media producer.

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