Behind The Work

FINDING THE HUMOUR BALANCE

Senior Writer and Editor
Patricia Murphy joined Havas Group in October 2019 as a Senior Editor and Writer. She has a background in digital journalism and content creation.
Co-Founder of Rosapark, Gilles Fichteberg, explores the creative behind a funny campaign for eco-responsible French brand Greenweez, which took a risk with humour.

‘Man Versus Otter’ stars French comic and environmentalist Nicolas Méryeux, taking on the role of an overbearing eco-warrior, who even preaches to the forest’s inhabitants about the ways they are mistreating our planet. Here, Gilles explains the difficulty of finding the right balance between funny and fail, and why this campaign hit the nail on the head.

Tell us about the creative for this campaign and where the idea came from?

The idea came to us when we thought about that friend we all have, the one who is constantly telling everyone what to do when it comes to the environment. Usually, they are the ones NOT practising what they preach. A “big talker, small doer,” as the French expression goes. We thought we’d push the envelope a little further by having him give lessons to the actual animals themselves, while they’re in total synergy and balance with the nature he is interrupting.

Why was French comic Nicolas Méryeux a good fit for this campaign?

Nicolas was the obvious choice. We knew him from his YouTube videos about the environment and he’s personally invested in these issues. He’s also a great actor with an incredible energy and a great capacity for improv. We had to make sure to create a character that we all loved to hate. It’s a real feat of acting because that’s not easy. We didn’t want to fall into the caricature of a guy who’s just horrible, without any other layers. In the end, he’s endearing, even though he’s a gigantic a*****e.

Do you think creating a funny or witty ad is harder work?

Humour can be tricky because everyone has their own sense of humour. What will make you laugh will not necessarily make your neighbour laugh. That was a big question from our client – how can we be sure that it will be funny for everyone? It’s impossible in fact, that’s why you have to work on ways to make it funny for the majority of the audience, by creating a character who everyone can see a bit of themselves in or recognise a friend, for example.  

“We had to make sure to create a character that we all loved to hate. It’s a real feat of acting because that’s not easy. We didn’t want to fall into the caricature of a guy who’s just horrible, without any other layers.”

It’s about landing on the right tone of humour that fits with the times and especially to find the right protagonist with a unique personality that surprises the audience in his way of seeing the world.  People love to be struck by the singular madness of a personality that is out of the ordinary. We worked a lot on that relationship between normality and insanity in this film.

How did you source and produce the footage for this campaign? 

That was the most complicated part. We absolutely wanted a perfect coherence between the different scenes. We started with the animal scenes with the help of several documentarians, who worked with us to select images of different animal reactions.

“Humour can be tricky because everyone has their own sense of humour. What will make you laugh will not necessarily make your neighbour laugh.”

Then we adapted to those images to build different scenes. It was an immense amount of work, but it helped us find animals that already had the right reaction to the script written by the creative team, like the “miracle” scene with the otter covering its ears. We couldn’t believe we had found it at first. Next, the director and the production team spent a huge amount of time scouting locations to make sure each scene would match the environment in the animal stock images. And, lastly, the colour grading and soundtrack were crucial to making sure everything all worked together.

A web series will follow this campaign. Can you tell us about it?

Yes, we wanted this character to live on online because he’s got so much potential for absurdity and his jokes are pretty ridiculous. In the series, he pretends to make things himself, whereas, of course, he’s incapable. The idea of tutorials also came from all the DIY content made by influencers, which inspired us a lot. We thought we could have a lot of fun crossing Nicolas’ personality with this tutorial format. Plus, each opportunity for the brand to communicate is aligned with what our client is selling (ready-made eco-responsible products so there is no need to complicate things – you can find everything at Greenweez). It almost looks like a brand signature, doesn’t it?

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