Advertising

How Nicole and Papa's adventures had the public hooked on a Renault wedding

By Neil Hobson | Reporter

November 1, 2018 | 4 min read

The Drum has joined forces with leading industry legends and The Financial Times to recognize some of the most enduring campaigns of all-time. Up next is Renault’s ‘Nicole and Papa’ series of ads.

Renault Clio ad

Papa and Nicole abscond on an adventure

Between 1991 and 1998, Renault had the nation glued to the screen as it charted the adventures of Nicole and her papa.

Often seen gliding about the French countryside in the titular Clio hatchback, Nicole’s story offered a perfect slice of escapism. Starring Estelle Skornik and Max Douchin, this father-daughter duo would go on to feature in one of the most memorable car ads in the UK.

Below the work debuted, Nicole and Papa absconding on a romantic adventure in secret.

Created by the Publicis agency, the work saw Renault Clio sales go through the roof – it boasted 300,000 sales in the seven years that the campaign ran for.

A 1996 poll even indicated that Nicole was more recognizable to the public than then prime minister, John Major. While the public fell head over heels for Nicole, the media were equally as attentive.

When Renault announced it would bring the story to a close in 1998 with Nicole’s wedding, tabloids began the rumour mill over who would be cast as the groom.

A-list names such as Hugh Grant and Eric Cantona were rumoured to be taking the role as Nicole’s true love. However, in an advertising masterstroke, Publicis flipped it on its head by hiring comedy duo Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer to spoof the ending of the Graduate.

The final installment saw Nicole leave Reeves at the altar as she absconded into the sunset with her Clio and her Mortimer. 23 million people tuned in to that TVC series' ending, cementing its cult status in UK advertising history.

Much like Nescafe’s Tony and Sharon story, Renault has revived the characters in the 21st Century – albeit in mere cameo appearances.

Testament to the lasting appeal of this campaign is its frequent reference in lists of the nation’s favourite ads.

Douglas Thursby-Pelham, Renault board account director at Publicis in 1997 captured the mood around the ad. He said: “The public appetite for these characters is insatiable and there’s no sign of wear-out.

"You might have expected people to have been tired of them by this time, but they have become part of the popular culture.”

What’s your pick for the best long-running campaign of all-time? Ahead of the annual The Drum Advertising Awards, The Drum has joined forces with leading industry legends and The Financial Times to recognize some of the most enduring campaigns of all-time.

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