Protect+inform:hand in hand?

How far should you go with an advertisement campaign to prove a point? That is what the French are debating right now. France’s biggest ecological association, France Nature Environnement had bought some prime space in the RATP Paris Metro for a series of posters against aggressive chemicals and man-made disasters, but most of their posters were rejected by RATP’s marketing department, and the Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fishing was downright scandalized.

Personally, I don’t think a poster in France of a guy holding an ear of GMO corn to his temple just like somebody playing  Russian roulette is particularly shocking – we’re talking about a country where marketing companies will gladly use naked women to sell car insurance.

But it looks like the region of Brittany strongly disagrees with this campaign, as one of the posters (see above) depicts a child playing with blue-green algae.  While France Nature Environnement’s intentions were very much sincere (protecting regions like Brittany by raising awareness about the environmental risks they face) the Regional Council and its Tourist commission see this poster as a serious prejudice to their efforts to maintain local economy through tourism.

One sees their point: after all, Parisian vacationers compose the region’s primary client base.   Naturally the region doesn’t want to see this poster on Parisian Metro walls.  After all, their 2008-2012 strategic plan for developing tourism emphasizes adding value to the region’s brand, notably by modernizing it, not by blowing a hole in it with an otherwise innocuous vegetable.

Yet the plan also stresses that the region should be walking the talk on sustainability, and isn’t awareness one of the first steps towards that?

If I were they, I wouldn’t have rushed and joined the outcry just because vehement denial seems quite suspicious.   Au contraire, why not use the opportunity to raise awareness of the threats to one of France’s most beautiful regions?  I guess this is another area where people are clearly choosing sides. Maybe it’s time to broaden the sustainable tourism concept to closer-to-home destinations in more creative, cross-over ways.


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