The 1980s. The decade of boomboxes, walkmans, VHS cassettes—and the real game-changer: the Apple Macintosh, the first commercially successful personal computer. All marvels in their heydays.
Canal has managed to tap into nostalgia for the ‘80s with its new campaign, Canal Experience. Created by BETC Paris, each 45-second spot skillfully juxtaposes retro tech with modern innovation, a move that’s meant to feature the company’s current offerings, including cloud DVR, family accounts, and multiple screens.
Here, Creative Director Eric Astorgue shares how he and his team craftily created a campaign rooted in a love for the decade of MTV, Madonna, and Super Mario Brothers.
What was the insight that led to this particular idea for the campaign?
When a new tech product launches, we always wonder: How we did to live without it all this time? We can’t even imagine going back to the older technology. However, even brand new technologies don’t stay cutting-edge for very long.
Why the 1980s?
The idea was to show how something that was deemed best-in-class in the ‘80s could look so old today, even though it used to be the absolute best technology at the time. Setting the campaign in the ’70s or ’80s helps emphasize how the current technology of Canal is really the best in the market. And also, we are aware that using these decades would bring a cool and funny vibe to the campaign thanks to the costume, the set design, and the dialogue.
How did you choose the storyline for each 45-second spot?
We spent a lot of time watching old commercials of TV sets, TV recorders, and video stores from the ’70s and the ’80s. We tried to make the writing, direction, costume, and set design the closest possible to it. We really wanted to avoid the campaign becoming a parody of old adverts. Instead, we wanted people to believe that they were shown actual old films until the reveal part.
And it worked. Many of our friends told us that they thought these were indeed old films.
How effective is nostalgia in an advertising campaign?
It is effective definitely in this campaign. Everybody that saw the campaign told us that it brought them memories of the old times. Even if it seems painful to record a program with a TV recorder or to have to go physically to a video store to return a cassette, it brings us emotions and makes us smile. And also, the ‘80s remains a period that is cherished in a lot of productions, events, graphic design, and film for example.
How might these spots appeal to those born after the 1980s?
They can absolutely appeal to everyone. Sure, someone born in the ‘90s would never have been into a video rental store. But he or she is aware, thanks to parents and older siblings who remember when it used to be a thing back in the days. And it hasn’t been that long since we got rid of all these technologies. Everyone knows that computers and tech used to be way more clunky before. Plus, the product benefits and the dialogue scenes in old commercials were very easy to understand.
Were there any challenges while creating this campaign?
Our biggest challenge was to avoid turning the campaign into a parody. That’s why we surrounded ourselves with a great production team able to make the films look like they were shot in the ‘80s. They brought a great level of attention to every detail: image definition, screen resolution, cast, costume, set design. Also, we had a challenging production where all the sets had to be put up and put down quickly in order to shoot seven different films. That’s no small feat.
The other challenging part for us was to come up with a new identity for Canal for the reveal scenes of the films. The brand wanted to have something modern and classy for the part when the content is shown. Our creative solution was to shoot in three different pitch-black settings in which we put the devices. We made a point of doing it live for authenticity and not to recreate it in 3D. This was clearly a totally different shoot.
Which spot is your favorite?
Our favorite film is the B3000, the one with the VCR. We love it because we used actors with an accent from the Québec and that brings some kind of edge to the spot. We had fun on the set learning about all the French-Canadian expressions that are very much foreign to us.
A lot of tiny details are spread out all over the films that you can’t see at first glance. For example, in the Video Boulevard spot, all the cassette covers in the background are different. They were all specially made by a team of graphic designers that had fun coming up with titles and Photoshop for each of them. Again, in the same ad, if you look closely, you can see a man in the background of the opening scene coming out of the Adults Only section of the store.
What is the ultimate goal of this campaign for Canal?
Canal is trying to show that it delivers the best of what you can get in terms of technology and that they have the best TV. They bring new technologies to the market that goes on to become the standards that consumers expect.
Title: CANAL Experience
Agency: BETC Paris
Executive Creative Director: Stephane Xiberras
Creative Director: Eric Astorgue
Creatives: Chrystel Jung, Romain Ducos