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A Focus On... France

VitalStatistics

Population: 62,962,000
Monetary unit: Euro €
Capital city: Paris
Major languages: French
Major religions: Roman Catholic 64.3%, of which practicing c. 8%; nonreligious/atheist c. 27%; Muslim 4.3%; Protestant 1.9%; Buddhist c. 1%; Jewish 0.6%; Jehovah’s Witness 0.4%; Orthodox 0.2%; other 0.3%
Ethnic composition: French 76.9%; Algerian and Moroccan Berber 2.2%; Italian 1.9%; Portuguese 1.5%; Moroccan Arab 1.5%; Fleming 1.4%; Algerian Arab 1.3%; Basque 1.3%; Jewish 1.2%; German 1.2%; Vietnamese 1.0%; Catalan 0.5%; other 8.1%
Age breakdown: under 15, 18.3%; 15–29, 18.8%; 30–44, 19.9%; 45–59, 20.1%; 60–74, 14.0%; 75–84, 6.4%; 85 and over, 2.5%
Life expectancy: male 77.8 years; female 84.5 years
Education: Percentage of population age 15 and over with no formal schooling through incomplete secondary education 45.5%, com- plete lower vocational 21.2%, complete secondary 13.3%, incomplete/com- plete higher 19.8%, unknown 0.2%
Urban/Rural split: urban 84.6%; rural 15.4%
Income per household (USD): $35,187
Broadband internet users (%): -

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

Introduction

France may be at the heart of the troubled eurozone, and it may have seen public debt rocket from 68% of GDP to 82% between 2008 and 2010, but it has weathered the global economic crisis better than most other big EU economies. A large public sector has kept domestic consumer spending relatively resilient, which has in turn maintained corporate sales and wages.

France is home to many multinational corporates such as Orange, LVMH, Danone, Total, Carrefour and PSA Peugeot Citroen, and its PR industry is starting to acquire a commensurate standing. Its marketing communications industry includes two of the world's biggest holding companies: Publicis Groupe and Havas. Both are relatively underweighted in terms of PR revenues, and both are attempting to rectify this.Most notably, Publicis Groupe merged its two global PR networks – US-based MS&L and France's Publicis Consultants – under a new MS&L Group banner, adding in various other agency resources from around the world.

The French PR industry was slower to enter the digital age than other European nations, but it is now rapidly catching up. Thierry Wellhof, President of industry body Syntec RP, says: “In the past three years digital communication has transformed the French PR industry. Now nearly all French PR agencies offer digital communication.”

Indeed, French corporates are increasingly recognising the value of PR. Industry insiders report that, whereas a few years ago they would have been called in at the end of a marketing campaign, now they are seen as key strategic partners.

Media

 The evening daily Le Monde is the biggest general newspaper, and is considered the voice of the political establishment. It is flanked by the left- and right-leaning Liberation and Le Figaro, respectively.
However, those three dailies have only around a quarter of the national newspaper market. This is due to the strength of local and regional titles such as Le Parisien, 20 Minutes, Metro, Ouest France and Sud Ouest. Key financial dailies include Les Echos and La Tribune, Elle and Vogue are big consumer titles, while sports newspaper L'Equipe is also popular.

TV retains leadership for family viewing, led by

private channel TF1 and public broadcaster France 2. Radio remains popular in France.

Twitter and Facebook are as important here as elsewhere. Boursorama is an important forum for monitoring shareholder opinion. News commentary is led by Le Figaro, citizen journalism site Agoravox and tech blog Mashable. Rue89 and Mediapart are key opinion-based community websites.

Specific bloggers are also highly influential, such as fashion blogger Garance Dore.

Major Brands

France is one of the world's more ‘brand-conscious' countries. Domestic companies noted for effective stakeholder engagement include retail powerhouse Carrefour, water brand Evian, and automotive giant Peugeot.

Lifestyle and luxury players are also highly visible, led by L'Oreal, Hermes, Chanel and LVMH. A surprising number of French PR experts point to 

the stakeholder engagement done by McDonald's. Coca Cola, Apple, and LG also have significant presences.

Wellhoff at Syntec praises the PR work done by Starbucks, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Costa Croisieres. Finally, despite budget constraint under Sarkozy, government spending on PR remains significant.


Agencies

Until around four years ago there were, broadly speaking, three types of PR agency in France. There were French independents of between five and 15 people. Primarily press relations agencies, this group includes VFC, RPCA, Opha, Self Image, Kingcom and Zap.

Then there were the agencies from big international networks: Ketchum, Fleishman, Hill & Knowlton, Burson Marsteller, Edelman, TBWA Corporate and Ogilvy PR. MS&L and Euro RSCG C&O fall within this group, and dominate the entire market. Finally, there were public affairs and

lobbying agencies such as Image 7 and Paul Boury.

Over the past four years the market has changed. Creative agencies such as Buzzman and Kids Love Jetlag have been pitching against PR agencies. At the same time, clients have looked to more digital-savvy press bureaux such as Hopscotch and Wellcom, social media agencies such as Vanksen and We Are Social, and content agencies such as All Contents, Editorial, and Verbe.

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