Martin, Elizabeth A.The Journal of Language for International Business; Glendale Sv. 16, Čís. 1,  (2005): 76-95.


This article explores the visual and verbal adaptations of international advertising campaigns across media for audiences in France. Topics explored include global discourses and imagery used to address French consumers, references made to French/European culture or popular media, language mixing, and translation of advertising copy. This research provides evidence that (1) English and global imagery are increasingly popular tools used in international advertising; (2) language legislation in France has done little to curb language mixing in the media; and (3) whereas French consumers are being treated as "global" consumers as never before, advertising agencies are keenly aware that tailoring their messages to local audiences is essential.


This article explores the visual and verbal adaptations of international advertising campaigns across media for audiences in France. Topics explored include global discourses and imagery used to address French consumers, references made to French/European culture or popular media, language mixing, and translation of advertising copy. This research provides evidence that (1) English and global imagery are increasingly popular tools used in international advertising; (2) language legislation in France has done little to curb language mixing in the media; and (3) whereas French consumers are being treated as "global" consumers as never before, advertising agencies are keenly aware that tailoring their messages to local audiences is essential.


Drawing from a corpus of several thousand television, magazine, and billboard advertisements recently collected in France, along with audio-taped interviews with members of the advertising industry working in top ad agencies in Paris, this article illustrates how multinational companies are adapting their advertising to the European market.1 Examples abound in the data of references made to French/European culture or popular media, as well as concepts that will likely appeal to French consumers. This study also examines local adaptations of English, a phenomenon that has resulted in tremendous bilingual creativity in advertising copy, particularly in regards to product names and slogans. English-language jingles were also found to be quite prevalent in French TV commercials. Added to this discussion are French government-imposed translations of English text that have been altered somewhat to appeal to French consumers, reflecting more their cultural values and worldview. These data clearly demonstrate the importance of tailoring an advertising message to local audiences while highlighting the impact that globalization and the spread of English has had on the publics perception of language and society.

Previous Studies

Although globalization is a commonly treated theme in marketing publications (e.g., Mueller, 1996; Johnston and Beaton, 1998; Kanso and Nelson, 2002) and has received some attention from linguists who analyze advertising copy (e.g., Bhatia, 2000, 2001; Myers, 1999; Smet and Criso, 2004), very little research on the impact of globalization on advertising in France appears in the literature, whether it be from a sociolinguistic or marketing perspective. Linguistics-oriented research on advertising has focused primarily on participants (e.g., Cook, 1992; Geis, 1982; Vestergaard and Schrøder, 1985; O'Barr, 1994), audience effects and intertextuality (e.g., Myers, 1994); advertising as a genre (e.g., Leech, 1966; Bhatia, 1993; Hermerén, 1999), attention-getting devices (e.g., Cook, 1992; Bhatia, 1987, 1992), and stereotyping (e.g., Haarmann, 1984). Concerning the blending of an indigenous language with English in advertising, there have been a number of studies in Europe (Larson, 1990; Gerritsen, 1995; Kelly-Holmes, 2000; Piller, 2001; Hilgendorf and Martin, 2001; Einbeck, 2004) but very few (e.g., Checri, 1995; Martin, 1998 a & b; Martin, 2002 a & b) have focused solely on France.2 With the exception of Thonus's (1991) investigation of Anglicized Brazilian shop names, and Ovesdotter Alms more recent study in Ecuador (2003), most other linguistically oriented research on code-mixed advertising addresses English in Asian contexts (e.g., Masavisut, Sukwiwat, and Wongmontha, 1986; Takashi, 1990; Tsuda, 1994; Wilkerson, 1997; Bhatia, 1992, 2000; Jung, 2001; Hsu, 2002).

French advertising has been analyzed from other perspectives in recent years, however, with studies focusing on a wide range of topics including puns (Grunig, 1990), creative strategies (Biswas, Olsen, and Carlet, 1992; Zandpour, Chang, and Catalano, 1992; Taylor, Grubbs, and Haley, 1996), specific cultural references used when addressing French consumers (Angelini and Federico, 1998), and American imagery in French advertising (Fourgeaud-Cornuéjols, 1993; Garnier, 2000; Martin, 2002 a). The research presented in this article complements these earlier analyses by addressing the redesigning of global advertising campaigns for French consumers, local adaptations of English as a by-product of globalization, and the multilingual advertising copy that has resulted from these phenomena.

Inspired by Roland Barthes' (1972, 1977) analyses of the discourse and imagery of advertising, the following discussion will explore different layers of meaning in recent French advertisements across media, treating the textual components, as well as the literal and symbolic (or cultural) iconic messages found in the copy and illustration of each example.3 It will be noted, for instance, that slogans are introduced in such a way as to direct the reader towards desired interpretations of an image (a process Barthes refers to as "anchorage"), and that a single advertisement may, in fact, offer several different connotations, many of which are culturally determined.4 Although this article approaches advertising from the point of view of globalization (both in terms of imagery and the use of English), the examples presented clearly underscore the efforts made by local advertising agencies to adapt global (one-size-fits-all) campaigns to the French market through similar processes. Whereas some of the advertisements included here would be suitable for distribution throughout Europe (with copy translation), others are clearly designed with the French consumer in mind, providing a glimpse into the French mentality and worldview.

Adaptations for the French Market

One of the byproducts of globalization, of course, is the proliferation of global brands in practically every corner of the globe, a situation described in detail by Naomi Klein in her very popular book entitled No Logo. These include a good number of American brands such as McDonald's and Coca Cola, both of which have sparked considerable debate in France. (Also worth noting is the fact that Starbucks is now expanding their operations to the French market, having just recently opened the first of three projected stores in Paris, as reported in Evin [2004].) One of the most popular strategies, of course, adopted by multinational corporations when addressing consumers around the world is the use of global imagery. These "postcard images" are inserted in advertising copy for a variety of reasons. They may, for example, reinforce the brand origins of the product (such as the panoramic view of the Australian outback in ads for Qantas Airlines) or, in other cases, suggest that the product or service has international appeal. For the latter category, television commercials for IBM featuring satisfied customers in remote contexts (such as Tibetan monks discussing their laptops in a Himalayan landscape) come to mind. Other companies have adopted similar strategies. A typical example is the two-page Microsoft ad recently used in France containing imagery from Paris on one page and Tokyo on the other (Figure 1). The headline reads "One second between sunset and sunrise" ("une seconde entre soleil couchant et soleil levant"), essentially underscoring the importance of maintaining instant and continuous communication with business partners and clients in various locations around the globe. In this case, time zone differences become an asset as a team of professionals in Japan ("the land of the rising sun") can continue working on a given project after their European counterparts log off for the evening. The image, slogan, and photo caption combined direct the audience towards a preferred "reading" of the copy: Microsoft can keep your company operating at full capacity 24/7. Thus, the literal message (that the sun is rising in Tokyo as it sets in Paris) denoted by the illustration and headline also offers at least one additional (symbolic) interpretation: In the business world, time is money. The images presented in this advertisement might also encourage yet another "reading," namely that in these bustling nerve centers of the global business network (Paris and Tokyo), a company executive's work day often extends well into the evening (making efficiency even more of a priority). The traffic and nighttime illuminations in the visual reinforce this association while underscoring the notion that in today's global market "time is of the essence."

View Image - Figure 1. Global Imagery in a French Microsoft AdZvětšit tento obrázek.

Figure 1. Global Imagery in a French Microsoft Ad

Whereas the imagery in the Microsoft example has a certain appeal for French consumers, one also notices that multinational corporations are making a concerted effort to reshape their international campaigns even further for French audiences, having realized that advertising copy for certain products and services must be fully adapted to the local context in order to not be rejected. An interesting case in point is McDonald's. Having been accused of contributing to the growing obesity among children in France, the restaurant chain ran a series of editorial ads in women's magazines (with titles such as "Does McDonald's make you fat?") providing testimonials from medical professionals about the nutritional value of McDonald's menu offerings.5 As for their poster advertising, McDonald's has decided to take on an entirely European look, using cultural images that most French children (and their parents) find familiar. Posters appearing in the windows of McDonald's restaurants in Paris, for instance, feature characters from Astérix, a comic book series that is extremely popular among the French..One of the posters depicts Astérix and his sidekick, Obélix, traveling through countries and regions featured in the comic book series, each of which appear with the ubiquitous two-letter prefix commonly associated with McDonald's (e.g., McLutèce, McHispanie, McGrèce, McTunisie, etc.). This theme was particularly well chosen for the McDonald's campaign as Astérix and his companions are not only well loved in Europe, but are also "symbols of the French inclination toward resistance and rebellion" (Asselin and Mastron, 2001:10). In a country where McDonald's is viewed by some as a symbol of globalization and a leader of the "American cultural invasion," this image cleverly disguises the campaign's message in French clothing.6 As for their Happy MealÔ menu options in France, McDonald's is featuring a sandwich they call the Croque McDo(TM). Modeled after the popular grilled ham and cheese sandwich known as the Croque Monsieur, this name also incorporates the truncated form of McDonald's (McDo) commonly used by the French when referring to the restaurant chain. Also mentioned in the copy is a dessert included in every McDonald's Happy Meal(TM) which they refer to as a Ronaldise(TM). This clever creation is derived from two elements recognizable to the French: the first name of the brand's mascot (Ronald McDonald) and the French word "gourmandizes" (for "delicacies"). By opting for a hybrid that both identifies the brand and the menu item in question, McDonald's avoids any direct mention of sweets, leaving the word open for interpretation.

Adopting an entirely different strategy, IBM ads used in France feature IBM employees whose names (e.g., Antje Kruse-Schomaker, Christopher Menant) and faces give the impression that they are Europeans hired by IBM to service the needs of other Europeans. Following the name of the individual pictured in the ad is a brief description of the specific "customized" business solutions he or she has implemented for IBM clients in Europe. The slogan written in bold capital letters across the forehead of each employee further reinforces IBM's claim to meet the demands of local customers: "Who do you need?" ("De qui avez-vous besoin?"), while supporting the "symbolic" message emitted by the illustration. Young and engaging, and distinctly European, the individual depicted in each ad exudes a certain energy and professionalism (and readiness to please) while offering a level of comfort through a "familiar" face. In contrast to other IBM campaigns which have focused on the interconnectivity of today's global market and "solutions for a small planet," this approach is clearly targeting Europeans in particular, placing the multinational corporation squarely behind faces with which French consumers can easily identify. This campaign also features a fair amount of English in the copy (e.g., SOFT2YOU, e-business) which the French are likely to associate with the notion of exclusivity (software designed specifically for your needs) as well as the latest trends in global business (such as online purchasing).

Recent French ads for Ford automobiles (Figure 2) use another typical adaptation strategy for the European market, that is, converting American measurements to the metric system. The main focus of this campaign is a safety feature in the Ford MondeoÔ (referred to as the Intelligent Protection System, or IPS) that-in the event of a collision-electronically adjusts the inflated airbag size, seat belt length, and headrest height to fit the car's occupants. In the visual, two tape measures (marked with centimeters rather than inches) serve as seat belts taking measurements of both the driver and the front-seat passenger. By simply making a visual reference to the metric system, the ad speaks directly to Europeans. The slogan (Protection sur mesure? IPS: Intelligent Protection System) also contains elements that are appealing to the French, such as the references to intelligence and protection, as well as the claim (as in the IBM example) that Ford is providing a feature that is specifically tailored ("sur mesure") to the client's situation. The measuring tape in the illustration clearly symbolizes this "customization" while alluding to the added level of security that these electronically adjusted seatbelts (and other features) provide. The use of an English acronym (IPS) and accompanying English slogan is also significant in that this type of technical jargon, when borrowed from English into French, is often associated with modern technology and/or quality engineering. The fact that the French translation is more prominently displayed, however, suggests that the Ford Company wanted to place the product firmly within a French context, addressing French consumers directly.

View Image - Figure 2. Metric System Used in Ad for Ford Mondeo(TM)Zvětšit tento obrázek.

Figure 2. Metric System Used in Ad for Ford Mondeo(TM)

Also worth noting is that French consumers are drawn to products that have natural ingredients and do not pollute the environment. American companies advertising deodorant in France, for instance, must convince the French consumer that their product contains no harmful chemicals. Having analyzed the product from a medical/health perspective, the French tend to look for the most natural product available on the market. In a recent French ad for a deodorant sold under the brand name Dove Sensitive(TM) (Figure 3), the headline takes into account typical French attitudes towards a product of this nature: "It's not what's in it that makes it different. It's what's not in there" (author's translation). In the visual, one notices that the product is set against a white background, drawing the reader's attention to the headline which essentially serves as an attention-getter for audiences so accustomed to the opposite (product detailing in advertising). With the color scheme and positioning of elements on the page, the company communicates the idea that Dove presents a "simple" and "natural" alternative solution, free of skin irritants and other "hazardous ingredients." The connotations of "gentleness" and "naturalness" are reinforced by the product name (Dove SensitiveÔ) and the text appearing on either side of the bottle ("no alcohol, no perfume, no artificial coloring"). Additional reassurance comes in the form of a tagline at the bottom of the page: It's hypoallergenic, it works, and that's all there is to it.

View Image - Figure 3. Deodorant Advertised in France as Having No Harmful ChemicalsZvětšit tento obrázek.

Figure 3. Deodorant Advertised in France as Having No Harmful Chemicals

Research on advertising also suggests that humor is a very popular strategy for addressing consumers in France (e.g., Biswas, Olsen, and Carlet, 1992; Zandpour, Chang, and Catalano, 1992; Angelini and Federico, 1998). Consider a recent ad for Tetley herbal tea (Figure 4. Here, we find a rather astonishing claim just below the company logo and signature line: Enfin un produit anglais qui vous veut du bien ("Finally, an English product that is good for you!"). The pastel colors in the visual further symbolize the soothing properties of the beverage, producing a sense of calmness and emotional well-being. While it may seem counter-intuitive for a British company to criticize its own culture and motives when advertising to consumers in France, this humorous "self-stereotyping" approach is brilliant considering French attitudes towards British cuisine. The slogan essentially pokes fun at the British whose cooking, according to French legend, is notoriously bland. Insinuating that Tetley (although it is exported from the U.K.) has the French consumer's best interests at heart, the slogan also carries a secondary symbolic meaning, shaped by the cultural perceptions and sense of humor of the French: "Finally, an English product that tastes good!"

View Image - Figure 4. Self-Stereotyping' in an Ad for Tetley Herbal TeaZvětšit tento obrázek.

Figure 4. Self-Stereotyping' in an Ad for Tetley Herbal Tea

The Impact of English on French Advertising Discourse

The motivations for inserting English into French advertising copy vary considerably depending on the product, intended audience, advertising message, media placement, and other variables (Martin, 1998 a). English may, for instance, be used as a link language for global campaigns, it may reflect the origins of the brand (e.g., "Marlboro Country"), or it may be mixed with French to create bilingual puns (e.g., N'eau fatique, n'eau stress for Hépar mineral water). It may also be used to evoke humor, as in the television commercial featuring an American fashion model peddling cookies (an American recipe) made by the French company LU with comments such as "Incredible. A French cookie better than an American cookie? Ahhh. 30% more chocolate chips. I get it! Do the French do everything with 30% more?" (Martin, 2002 a:12). English can be found in product names, slogans, jingles, on product labels, and embedded in descriptive copy (particularly if it is an assimilated borrowing such as "leader" or "Internet"). It has been reported that one of the most common uses of English in French advertising, however, is product names (Martin 1998 a:254).

Many English-language product names used in France, as one might expect, originate in countries such as the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. The vast majority of English-inspired product names appearing in the data, however, were created for brands associated with other parts of the world, indicating an intentional use of English in non-native contexts for wider appeal (Figure 5).

View Image - Figure 5. Sampling of English Product Names Used in FranceZvětšit tento obrázek.

Figure 5. Sampling of English Product Names Used in France

Analysis of the data also indicates the types of English words encountered most frequently in product names used in France. These include:

* Beep

* Body

* Club

* Color

* Fit

* Fun

* Lift

* Light

* Man (men) and Woman (women)

* Relax

* Senior(s)

* Soft

* Spray

Although most of these borrowings are used with their original spelling and meaning in the corpus, there are some interesting observations to be made. For instance, the English word "beep" adopted by the French often manifests itself as "bip" when written in French advertising copy so as to produce a pronunciation approximating that of the original borrowing, as in the product name Mobip Cell (Figure 6).

View Image - Figure 6. French-English Hybridization in a Product NameZvětšit tento obrázek.

Figure 6. French-English Hybridization in a Product Name

With other borrowings, we are witnessing a semantic shift, indicating perhaps an increased exposure to English by the general population.7 The word "light," for example, was originally borrowed to replace "diet" in food and beverage products (e.g., Coca Light for "Diet Coke"), as the word "diet" had negative associations in certain markets outside the United States. These data reveal, however, that in recent years, additional meanings for the English word "light" have crept into French advertising discourse (Figure 7).

View Image - Figure 7. Uses of the English Borrowing 'Light' ('Lite') in Recent French AdsZvětšit tento obrázek.

Figure 7. Uses of the English Borrowing 'Light' ('Lite') in Recent French Ads

In French advertising slogans, we also find English words that have been borrowed with additional meanings as compared to several years ago (as reported, for example, in Martin 1998 a), indicating their wider acceptance and intelligibility among the targeted population. Appearing in a recent Skil Power Tools ad (Figure 8), for instance, is the word "smart"-a borrowing originally adopted by the French to refer to someone who is "handsomely dressed." Here, however, it is used to denote "intelligence," a meaning that is very rare indeed for this borrowing in colloquial French discourse. Advising consumers to purchase Skil Power Tools (complete with tool box), the slogan reads: Soyez smart! (Be intelligent!). Closer examination of the copy and illustration reveals that this literal, "denoted" meaning (buying Skil Power Tools in a boxed kit with accessories is an intelligent decision) is accompanied by an additional (connoted) interpretation: A man who purchases this kit will no longer be "trapped" in his routine of keeping an odd collection of drill bits and screws in jars his wife (or mother) normally uses for jams and preserves. Indeed, he will have everything he needs ("tout four réussir"). The detailed list of parts included (hammer drill, screws, plugs, etc.) is directed at male readers who want to have all their tools within easy reach ("tout immédiatement sous la main"). This solution is very attractive indeed when one considers the frustrated individual depicted in the visual, imprisoned in a recycled glass jar with his various useless odds and ends. The English in the slogan also draws the reader's attention to the product name (SmartSet) appearing on the box label. One additional English borrowing (extra's) is found at the bottom of the page. In this case, the possessive (apostrophe + [s]) is simply used as a plural marker.8 Although this lexical item closely resembles the truncated form of extraordinaire, commonly used in colloquial French (C'est extra!), it is unmistakably English due to the affixation and borrowed meaning ("additional" as in "16 extra items").

View Image - Figure 8. Additional Meaning for the Borrowing ''Smart' Appearing in Ad for SkilZvětšit tento obrázek.

Figure 8. Additional Meaning for the Borrowing ''Smart' Appearing in Ad for Skil

Government-Imposed Translations

Before examining some of the ways in which slogans are translated, a few comments regarding the 1994 Toubon Law in France are in order. According to this legislation (Articles 2 and 12 specifically), TV commercials containing English must be subtitled and all poster and magazine ads must provide equally legible French translations for English slogans.9 While this certainly holds true for TV commercials, which are carefully screened in France for content before airing on national television, the translations in print ads are often nonexistent or barely visible. In those cases where translations are provided in the ad copy, they are usually quite literal (e.g., "The independent spirit" for "L'esprit d'indépendance" in ads for Glenfiddich whisky). One cannot help but notice, however, the occasional French translation that "bends the rules." In a TV commercial for an album featuring Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears, for instance, we find the slogan: "NRJ, hit music only." (The text appears on the screen and in the voice-over.) The translation provided in the subtitle, however, maintains the English word "hit": "Que du hit sur NRJ." In another TV commercial appears the slogan: Fanta madness: made in fun (also written and pronounced with an off-camera voice). The "mixed" translation provided in this case is "fun de folie," a "Frenglish" creation that phonetically resembles the colloquial expression "vent de folie" (which could be roughly translated as "crazy passion" in this context).10 This fine-print translation is humorous on several levels. At first glance, one notes that the double meaning provides a play on words both in English (made in USA à made in fun) and in French (vent de folie à fun de folie). Culturally speaking, the insertion of the English word "fun" in the provided translation also represents a form of insubordination (and amusement) as the use of English in this portion of the copy is not at all sanctioned by the French government. The same argument applies for "Que du hit sur NRJ." It is no surprise that the copywriters chose to keep the words "fun" and "hit" in these translations, however, as both are well-established borrowings that appeal to the targeted consumer group (teenagers). This circumvention of the Toubon Law is evident throughout the corpus and has been documented in an earlier study of similar scope (Martin, 1998 a).

Occasionally, copywriters in France receive copy with English text which is difficult to translate and/or would sound much less appealing in French. To adapt the advertisement to the French market, they resort to a slightly changed version designed to achieve a similar effect (Figure 9).

The Devoteam Siticom slogan uses a more succinct French translation (ensemble, meaning "together") to replace the original English colloquialism ("team up") as any direct translation (such as "Faites équipe!") would have been less appealing. The French translation appearing in the Fairmount ad ("élégance décontractée" or "casual elegance") is also well chosen as it adds a certain flair to the original version. This ploy was, in fact, rather ingenious given that French consumers typically value refinement in everything related to fashion. Thus, the notion of "chic" is introduced in place of "footwear," used in the original English text. As for the word "utility" in IBM's slogan, it probably would have stumped French audiences, hence "the latest service you can't live without" in the French version ("e-business à la demande, le nouveau service essential"). (The reader will notice that the copywriters chose to keep the English element "e-business" in the provided translation as the French equivalent, "commerce électronique," would have been too cumbersome.)

View Image - Figure 9. Slightly Adapted French TranslationsZvětšit tento obrázek.

Figure 9. Slightly Adapted French Translations

Language-Mixing and Puns

The mixing of languages for humorous effect is another prominent feature of the corpus. Consider, for example, the following slogan for Lavazza coffee:

"Espress yourself" (Translated as "Exprimez-vous")

This altered version (with "s" inserted in place of "x") is an effective way of getting consumers to imagine themselves drinking Lavazza while encouraging them to identify personally with the product. The rather creative Lavazza-inspired outfits worn by the models in the visuals reinforce this message (Figure 10). By embedding the product (espresso) in a meaningful chunk of discourse (Espress yourself), the linguistic message guides the reader towards an interpretation of this image as one that symbolizes someone "expressing" herself through coffee, and who appreciates the experience to such an extent that she literally wraps herself in the product from head to toe. Closer inspection reveals another layer of meaning. Interspersed with the images of the corporate logo stuck to the model's skin (and scattered on the floor at her feet) are voluptuous lips and cups of espresso of various colors, shapes, and sizes. One possible connotation of this mixture of text and images is that the woman and the coffee are inseparable "lovers" with the various representations of the Italian product (lips, logo, coffee cups filled with espresso) passionately embracing her to the point of entering her very being. The combination of colors (blue, white, and red), plus the pristine white sandy beach and bright blue sky seen through the windows in the background, are all elements that will appeal to the French, evoking not only their nationality (colors of the French flag) but also fond vacation memories of exotic sunny locations. Through these various devices, the company disguises any ideological content by encouraging readers to interpret this image as a celebration of lust, desire, and self-expression (with the avant-garde world of fashion as an enticing cultural reference). Thus, any negative connotations (women portrayed as sex objects for commercial gain, branding as a form of mind control, and so forth) are suppressed in favor of a more positive symbolic interpretation: Drink Lavazza espresso coffee, and be unique!

View Image - Figure 10. Code-Mixed Pun in Slogan for LavazzaZvětšit tento obrázek.

Figure 10. Code-Mixed Pun in Slogan for Lavazza

Current Trends in French Television Advertising

As for the television commercials recorded for this study, there are some common strategies worth noting. As has been reported for other media (e.g., Biswas, Olsen, and Carlet, 1992), sexual humor, for instance, is a concept that appears rather frequently in campaigns specifically addressing French consumers. A kitchen sponge marketed in France as Spontex DiabolicÔ), for example, is depicted in a recent French television commercial as a desirable lover for hedgehogs who find rubbing their bodies against its rough, scratchy surface a rather sensual experience. Meanwhile, an off-camera voice presents the product using commentary one might expect of a commercial for condoms (italics added):

Spontex presents Diabolic. A very flexible sponge with a new rough texture to last even longer. Diabolic, new from Spontex. If it works that well, it must be Diabolic, (author's translation)11

The accompanying English-language music soundtrack further enhances "the mood":

Give me love, give me all that you've got

Give me love, give me all that you've got

Give me love, give me all that you've got

Another commercial, on the other hand, associates an American brand (Coca Cola) with the world of soccer in order to better address Europeans. Aired just before the 2002 World Cup, hosted by Korea and Japan, the spot featutes two sportscasters, one Asian and the other from Latin America. The Asian knocks on the door of the Latino asking for advice as to how to become a "great sportscaster" in time for the World Cup. The latter agrees to help him by teaching him how to pronounce, with gusto, the word "goal" (subtitled in the commercial as but.). After several unsuccessful attempts, the Asian is finally able to produce the correct pronunciation after his instructor suggests he take a swig of Coca Cola.

A recent commercial for Carte Bleue Visa (the French version of the visa credit card), however, is one of the best examples in the corpus displaying the types of discourses and imagery used to address today's global consumer. The commercial opens with a man and a woman (both nomads) sitting outside their tent in the middle of the desert watching the sun set. In the local language (subtitled in French), the man asks his companion what she feels like doing this evening. She replies, "How about a movie," to which he responds quite nonchalantly, "Sure, why not?" Each then puts on a pair of glasses which double as portable computer screens. After a quick eye scan to verify their identity, they click on the eyeglass frame controls (marked in Arabic) to select a movie and pay (electronically) with their visa card. The movie they choose to watch (Singing in the Rain) only adds to the commercial's irony and humor. As the commercial ends, they begin watching the film, singing along gleefully in English: "Singing in the rain, just singing in the rain. What a glorious feeling, I'm happy again!"


To conclude, these examples provide evidence that English is an integral part of the advertising landscape of France despite the local government's efforts to curb its use in the media. It appears in product names, slogans, jingles, and dialogue and is being blended with French in increasingly clever and creative ways. We are witnessing a trend towards more borrowings with additional native-like meanings for already assimilated borrowings, and a level of complexity in language mixing that exceeds anything recorded thus far in the literature on English in French advertising. As for global brands, there is evidence that multinational corporations are adapting their messages to local audiences with the understanding that one size does not fit all. Indeed, the advertising described herein reflects contemporary French society on several different levels. Through this brief survey of advertising in France, we sense an appreciation for quality engineering, natural ingredients, intelligence, aesthetics, symbolism, and humor. In international advertising reshaped for French audiences we also find verbal and textual cultural references that are meaningful to French consumers, taking into account their mentality, European identity, attitudes towards global brands, and worldview. The only question remaining is whether or not Starbucks is going to get Parisians to drink Toffee Nut Latte with toffee sprinkles.



1 The data collection for this project (including the advertising samples from different media and ad agency interview data) was completed in March, April, May, and June 2002.

2 A recent analysis of the "commercial value" of English by Miller and Fagyal (2003) is also worth noting.

3 Using a Panzani advertisement as an example, Barthes (1977:32-51) distinguishes between "non-coded iconic messages" (or "denoted" images) and "coded iconic messages" ("connoted" images). According to this framework, the linguistic message (such as the brand name or slogan) serves to "anchor" certain readings of the image in the consumer's imagination as it "remote-controls him towards a meaning chosen in advance" (p. 40).

4 Barthes' (1972) notion of "myth" has also been applied to the verbal and visual aspects of advertising, one example being his description of the Citroën D.S. (pronounced as déese in French, meaning "goddess"). In Barthes' analysis of this particular campaign, the automobile is presented as a form of "humanized art" shifting the consumer's attention from speed and performance to a higher level of comfort and "a relish in driving." Rather than being purely mechanical, the D.S. exudes a certain spirituality and "a taste for lightness" with windows that are "vast walls of air and space, with the curvature, the spread and the brilliance of soap-bubbles" (Barthes, 1972:89).

5 Author's translation. Original title: "McDo fabrique-t-il des obsèses?"

6 Also significant is the fact that the amusement park Disneyland Paris is in direct competition with the Astérix theme park (Asselin and Mastron, 2001:11).

7 See Rifelj (1996) for an earlier analysis of the semantic range of English words and expressions borrowed into French.

8 This affix (borrowed from English) is also tacked onto other English borrowings in French whether they are singular or plural (e.g., un pin's), a process outlined in detail by Picone (1996).

9 The law also requires that all foreign languages used in radio advertising be translated.

10 The expression "vent de folie" connotes a certain rebellious attitude and lack of control, making this symbolic meaning ("crazy fun" à "crazy passion"; "fun de folie" à "vent de folie") all the more appealing to younger audiences.

11 The original French version is as follows: "Spontex présente Diabolic. Une éponge très maniable avec une nouvelle texture grattante pour durer encore plus longtemps. Nouvelle diabolic de Spontex. Aussi efficace, c'est Diabolic."




Angelini, E., and Federico, S. (1998). Understanding French culture through advertisements. Global Business Languages, 110-120.

Asselin, G., and Mastron, R. (2001). Au Contraire! Figuring Out the French. Yarmouth, Maine: Intercultural Press.

Barthes, R. (1972). Mythologies. Trans. by Annette Lavers. New York: Hill and Wang.

Barthes, R. (1977). Image, Music, Text. Trans. by Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang.

Bhatia, T. K. (1987). English in advertising: Multiple mixing and media. World Englishes 6(1), 33-48.

Bhatia, T. K. (1992). Discourse functions and pragmatics of mixing: Advertising across cultures. World Englishes 11(2-3), 195-215.

Bhatia, T. K. (2000). Advertising in Rural India: Language, Marketing Communication, and Consumerism. ILCAA Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa Monograph Series, No. 36, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Tokyo, Japan.

Bhatia, T. K. (2001). Language mixing in global advertising. In E. Thumboo (ed.), The Three Circles of English. Singapore: Singapore University Press.

Bhatia, V. K. (1993). Analysing Genre: Language Use in Professional Settings. London: Longman.

Biswas, A., Olsen, J., and Carlet, V. (1992). A comparison of print advertisements from the United States and France. Journal of Advertising 21(4), 73-81.

Checri, C. (1995). L'Expressivité de l'emprunt en publicité. Plurilinguismes: Les Emprunts, No. 9/10. Paris: Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches en Planification Linguistique (CERPL).

Cook, G. (1992). The Discourse of Advertising. London: Routledge.

Einbeck, K. (2004). Mixed messages: English in German advertising. The Journal of Language for International Business 15(1), 41-61.

Evin, G. (2004). Starbucks s'attaque à la France. 15 janvier.

Fourgeaud-Cornuéjols, C. (1993). C'est l'Amérique: Représentation des Etats-Unis et des Américains dans la publicité française. Contemporary French Civilization 17(1), 102-130.

Garnier, C. (2000). Halloween au pays d'Astérix. Contemporary French Civilization 24(1), 75-88.

Geis, M. L. (1982). The Language of Television Advertising. New York: Academic Press.

Gerritsen, M. (1995). 'English' Advertisements in The Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Unpublished manuscript. University of Nimegen: Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Grunig, B. (1990). Les Mots de la Publicité: L'Architecture du Slogan. Paris: Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).

Haarmann, H. (1984). The role of ethnocultural stereotypes and foreign languages in Japanese commercials. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 50, 101-102.

Hermerén, L. (1999). English for Sale: A Study of the Language of Advertising. Lund, Sweden: Lund University Press.

Hilgendorf, S., and Martin, E. (2001). English in Advertising: Update from France and Germany. In E. Thumboo (ed.), The Three Circles of English. Singapore: University of Singapore Press, 217-240.

Hsu, J-L. (2002). English Mixing in Advertising in Taiwan: A Study of Readers' Attitudes. Paper presented at the 13th World Congress of Applied Linguistics, December 16-21, 2002, Singapore.

Johnston, S., and Beaton, H. (1998). Foundations of International Marketing. London: International Thomson Business Press.

Jung, K, (2001). The genre of advertising in Korean: Strategies and "mixing." In E. Thumboo (ed.), The Three Circles of English. Singapore: Singapore University Press, 257-275.

Kanso, A., and Nelson, R. (2002). Advertising localization overshadows standardization. Journal of Advertising Research, Jan-Feb, 79-89.

Kelly-Holmes, H. (2000). Bier, Parfum, Kaas: Language fetish in European advertising. European Journal of Cultural Studies 3, 67-82.

Klein, N. (2000). No Logo. London: Flamingo.

Larson, B. E. (1990). Present-day influence of English on Swedish as found in Swedish job advertisements. World Englishes 9(3), 367-369.

Leech, G. N. (1966). English in Advertising: A Linguistic Study of Advertising in Great Britain. London: Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd.

Martin, E. (1998a). Code-Mixing and Imaging of America in France: The Genre of Advertising. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Martin, E. (1998b). The use of English in written French advertising: A study of code-switching, code-mixing, and borrowing in a commercial context. Studies in the Linguistic Sciences 28(1), 159-184.

Martin, E. (2002a). Cultural images and different varieties of English in French television commercials. English Today 18(4), 8-20.

Martin, E. (2002b). Mixing English in French advertising. World Englishes, 21(3), 375-401.

Masavisut, N., Sukwiwat, M., and Wongmontha, S. (1986). The power of the English language in Thai media. World Englishes 5(2/3), 197-207.

Miller, J. S., and Fagyal, Z. (2003). La valeur marchande des anglicismes. Contemporary French Civilization 27(1), 129-151.

Mueller, B. (1996). International Advertising: Communicating Across Cultures. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co.

Myers, G. (1994). Words in Ads. London: Edward Arnold.

Myers, G. (1999). Ad Worlds: Brands, Media, Audiences. London: Edward Arnold.

O'Barr, W. (1994). Culture and the Ad: Exploring Otherness in the World of Advertising. Oxford: Westview Press.

Ovesdotter Alm, C. (2003). English in the Ecuadorian commercial context. World Englishes 22(2), 143-158.

Picone, M. D. (1996). Anglicisms, Neologisms and Dynamic French. Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Piller, I. (2001). Identity constructions in multilingual advertising. Language in Society 30, 153-186.

Rifelj, C. (1996). False friends of true? Semantic anglicisms in France today. The French Review 69(3), 409-416.

Smet, R., and Criso, R. (2004). Coco-colonization? Americanization-globalization-cultural imperialism? The Journal of Language for International Business 15(1), 75-89.

Takashi, K. (1990). A sociolinguistic analysis of English borrowings in Japanese advertising texts. World Englishes 9(3), 327-341.

Taylor, R., Grubbs Hoy, M., and Haley, E. (1996). How French advertising professionals develop creative strategy. The Journal of Advertising 25(1), 1-14.

Thonus, T. (1991). Englishization of business names in Brazil. World Englishes 10(1), 65-74.

Tsuda, Y. (1994). The diffusion of English: Its impact on culture and communication. Keio Communication Review 16, 49-61.

Vestergaard, T., and Schrøder, K. (1985). The language of advertising. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Wilkerson, K. T. (1997). Japanese bilingual brand names. English Today 13, 12-16.

Zandpour, F., Chang, C., and Catalano, J. (1992). Stories, symbols, and straight talk: A comparative analysis of French, Taiwanese, and U.S. TV commercials. Journal of Advertising Research, Jan-Feb, 25-38.