Havas Paris for EDF: The Race

It’s a lighthearted TV spot with a deep message. With flying dragons, fearless knights, and wild animated creatures roaming throughout real French landscapes, Havas Paris taps into our imaginations to highlight the power of several renewable energy options from French power company EDF. Christophe Coffre, chief creative officer at Havas Paris, takes us on a fun ride behind the scenes.

More often these days, climate change is leading news. How do you market an energy company in today’s political climate?

We all know that energy underpins our future. While we all need electricity to run our household appliances for cooking, lighting, and so on, we also know that we must combat global warming, which is now a big problem that society faces. Working and thinking for a big energy firm places a responsibility on our shoulders. We must be honest, transparent, and, where possible, entertaining, to make EDF relatable and likable.

What’s the main message in this spot?

France is the lowest carbon dioxide–emitting country in Europe. On average France emits 20 times less than other European countries. EDF is the number one European renewable energy producer, backed by an energy mix combining nuclear, hydro, wind, thermal, and solar power sources. The energy mix is a crucial issue that interests many people greatly, but ultimately, not many people really know what it’s all about. “The Race” depicts EDF’s operations and its 97% carbon dioxide–free power production while also entertaining different audiences.

So what are we looking at in this commercial?

Simply depicting power generation facilities, such as dams or solar panels, wouldn’t keep people’s attention. We had to make it exciting and amusing to keep everyone interested. After all, EDF has 26 million customers—of all ages. We believe the video game does the job. It’s entertaining, appeals to all ages, and tells the story of a family spending time together, all while educating audiences about consumer energy.

Why did you adopt a cartoon format?

Cartoons appeal to everyone. Animation lets us convey a serious and complex message like moving to renewable energy in a lighthearted and playful fashion.

edf the race

What is the main thread of the story?

The film portrays a race between characters with imaginary steeds, flying at top speed not only over villages, forests, and fields—but also over solar panels, hydroelectric dams, wind farms, and nuclear power plants.

This brilliantly produced, exhilarating race is abruptly interrupted by a scene from everyday life—one very familiar to many of us. The film says: Entertainment uses up a lot of energy, but EDF’s energy mix is a way to enjoy life while reducing one’s environmental footprint.

Why use such old-fashioned music?

Music plays a big role in advertising these days. It is a marketing tool in its own right. For “The Race,” we screened 300 tracks, and then one day, we stumbled on “Mon truc en plumes,” which dates back to 1961. It struck us as a perfect match for the commercial. French ballet dancer Zizi Jeanmaire represents a nod to earlier generations while evoking different feelings in each and every one of us.

What benefits are expected for the brand?

EDF was already a strong brand conjuring up notions such as reliability, technical expertise, world-class engineering, etcetera, but it lacked soul. In 2014, we bolstered the brand’s association with a sense of friendliness and local presence via the EDF ElectRIC Saga, which was based on a TV story. We then moved more into entertainment with funny and offbeat content. “The Race” was largely guided by this approach—it combines a blend of magic, exhilaration, and humor while telling the story of an iconic brand that is at once timeless, appealing to all ages, essential in everyday life and at the cutting edge of technology.

Any challenges while creating this commercial?

It’s a high-tech film, and the most difficult part was to keep a feeling of magic in it.

To make this 45-second film, it took us five months of hard work with more than 100 people, 30 who worked solely on post-production. We had to create fairytale characters who were convincing and original, but not too corny. It was a massive research job.

And all the landscapes are real-life French countryside. We followed the same ultra-strict quality standards as today’s entertainment industry.