Posters representing France’s 12 presidential candidates are on billboards around the country ahead of the first round of the election this Sunday April 10.
We asked Philippe Moreau-Chevrolet, director of the communication agency MCBG Conseil, to analyse the underlying messages behind the poster designs and slogans.
“It is not a great batch this year,” said Mr Moreau-Chevrolet, adding that candidates did not appear to put much effort into originality and inventivity. He said French politicians do not traditionally invest much in posters as they do not consider them to be effective with voters.
He said he was struck by the “lack of visual and graphic effort” of most of them, saying they continued a trend in which candidates are styled as the central character in the poster with references to their party or party’s colours either missing or only hinted at.
Mr Moreau-Chevrolet noticed that more candidates are portrayed looking forward in a ‘selfie’ style, something he believes to be a direct inspiration from American politics - although some do still use side-portrait, a reference he attributed to former socialist president François Mitterrand.
He said that in general, the slogans were very neutral.
We look at the posters below and also give the slogans, which we have translated. Some candidates have two slogans, one they use on their posters and one they use in other ways, so we have provided both.
Nathalie Arthaud (Lutte ouvrière)
Slogan: On the side of [blue-collar] workers
Ms Arthaud campaign’s poster features a close-up of her face. The original picture was taken from a wider angle where she poses in front of a Lutte Ouvrière’s tent looking into the distance.
“It’s always like that with her and the party,” Mr Moreau-Chevrolet said. “The pictures are natural and are never photoshopped. It adds to the rawness of her candidacy,”
He added that the poster and slogans are very similar to her 2017 campaign.
Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (Debout la France)
Slogan: Save France!
Slogan on poster: Choose freedom
Mr Dupont-Aignan is pictured front-on and smiling, wearing a white shirt, a blue tie and a jacket.
He is the only candidate to have chosen not to blur the background, which shows a traditional French village with a church spire in the distance. The sky is overly blue with few clouds and birds flying.
“Very similar to former posters as well,” Mr Moreau-Chevrolet said, adding that the slogan “Choose freedom” suggested he wanted to appeal to anti-vaxxers or “those who think we live in a health dictatorship”.
Mr Dupont-Aignan’s background is very suggestive of former socialist president François Mitterand’s 1981 presidential poster campaign “La Force Tranquille” where he appears in front of a village – a point Mr Moreau-Chevrolet did not mention.
Anne Hidalgo (Parti socialiste)
Slogan: Unite France
Slogan on poster: Let’s change our destiny together
Ms Hidalgo is pictured from the front with a white blouse. She is wearing a small necklace, smiling and looking directly at the camera.
Mr Moreau-Chevrolet said her campaign slogan was not clear enough, pointing at a “mixture between desire for change and togetherness”, which he likened to the “Ensemble, tout devient possible” (Together, everything is possible) from Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential winning poster bid.
“Ms Hidalgo chose the colour white, something on the rise among feminine candidates,” he said, adding it was a way to show freshness and innovation.
This is the third campaign poster for Anne Hidalgo after she switched from one with the phrase, ‘Le courage, la justice’ (‘courage, justice’) to a second poster with the slogan: ‘Reunir la France’ (Unite France.)
Valérie Pécresse (Les Républicains)
Slogan: The courage to act
Ms Pécresse is shown head-on with a smile that looks almost like a smirk, wearing a white V-neck t-shirt and black jacket.
“It suggests a leaning toward action rather than empty words” he said.
He agreed it could be a nod to former party member François Fillon’s 2017 campaign book “Faire” when it was suggested to him, but added the message was hard to read and understand since it was “very bland.”
Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France Insoumise)
Slogan: Another world is possible
Mr Mélenchon is pictured with his head turned slightly to the left, looking out over the horizon. He is wearing a red tie with a dark jacket.
The background is blurred but suggests he is pictured on top of a city hill. Mr Moreau-Chrevrolet suggested it could have been taken in Marseille, a strong electoral bastion for Mr Mélenchon’s party La France Insoumise.
“This slogan from the alter-globalisation movement has been around for 15 years,” he said, adding it was “not modern although most probably chosen deliberately.”
“The picture suggests it was not well thought out and that is not convincing enough,” he said.
Emmanuel Macron (La République en Marche)
Slogan: Emmanuel Macron alongside you
President-candidate Emmanuel Macron faces the camera with a smile, dressed with a white shirt and a tie and a darker blue coat.
“He does not take any risks. This is very neutral and it fits his campaign,” he said, adding the use of Photoshop was decreased in comparison to his former campaign, although “the wrinkles were highlighted a bit to appear more experienced.”
“He is dressed with a coat to suggest he will face bad weather,” he said, adding it was reminiscent of Mr Mitterrand.
Eric Zemmour (Reconquête!)
Slogan: To ensure that France remains France
Mr Zemmour is pictured from up close with a light blue shirt, a darker blue tie and a flashy blue jacket. The background is blurred and indistinct. He is looking directly into the camera.
“What is interesting with Zemmour is that he decided to showcase his name in smaller letters” Mr Moreau-Chevrolet said, suggesting Mr Zemmour was able to get by on the popularity of his image alone.
He said his slogan was a bit sad considering a better option could have come from his aides after eight months of campaigning.
Jean Lassalle (Résistons!)
Slogan: Authentic France
Mr Lassalle (right-wing) is facing the camera from a slightly wider angle, portrayed from the bottom of his chest to the top of his head. He is dressed in a light blue shirt and a dark blue tie with lighter-stripe lines and a darker jacket.
The background is blurry but suggests a green field.
“Lassalle is only showcasing himself,” he said. Mr Moreau-Chevrolet pointed at several paradoxes in Mr Lassalle’s slogan and poster, referring to his suit-and-tie outfit while defending an “authentic France” as his slogan suggests. He also said it sounded vague.
Mr Lassalle’s poster campaign was unavailable for publication.
Fabien Roussel (Parti communiste)
Slogan: France of happy days
Mr Roussel is portrayed from the front in a white shirt with the top button undone and a black jacket. The background is split diagonally with pink and purple colours, an unusual choice for a candidate representing a communist party.
“The colours appeal to the generation of social media Twitch,” Mr Moreau-Chevrolet said, adding Mr Roussel was the “most surprising” in colour choice. “It is very interesting and denotes a lot.”
Mr Roussel’s campaign slogan reads : La France des jours heureux (France of happy days), although Mr Moreau-Chevrolet said it could also mean ‘France of happy days of yesteryears’.
“The slogan feels very nostalgic. He wants to resuscitate the Communist party from the 50s and the 60s,” he said.
Marine Le Pen (Rassemblement National)
Slogan: Stateswoman or ‘France we M [play on word aime in French]’
Slogan on poster: Stateswoman
Marine Le Pen (far-right) chose a close-in portrait of her face. She is dressed in a dark jacket covering a white V-neck and sporting an indistinctly-shaped golden necklace.
Ms Le Pen chose “Femme d’Etat” (Women in charge or stateswoman) and “La France qu’on M”, a play-on-word with the letter M for Marine and the pronunciation of “aime” (to like), on her campaign posters.
“Femme d’Etat is audacious and radical,” he said but said playing on the gender card during a presidential election has never been successful in French politics since older women were told it was tinted with a negative connotation.
“It is still a problem for women aged in their 40s to late 50s to vote for a woman,” he said.
Philippe Poutou (Nouveau parti anticapitaliste)
Slogan: Our life is worth more than their profits
Philippe Poutou is pictured side-on wearing a black baseball cap and a casual blue shirt with a party sticker on his chest. Mr Poutou displays a designer stubble. The indistinct background is a blurry red.
“Mr Poutou plays like [Vladimir] Lenin with his chin put forward and the masses behind him,” he said, adding it was coherent with previous posters and slogans.
Yannick Jadot (Europe Ecologie Les Verts)
Slogan: Face up (to the situation)
Yannick Jadot is pictured very close-up with a left-sided portrait partially showing his face and covering half of the campaign poster. Mr Jadot looks toward the left of the frame. He is wearing a white button-up shirt with a tie and a blue jacket.
The right half of the campaign poster features Mr Jadot’s slogan “Faire face”, meaning to face up to something, or possibly ‘face forward’, a reference to the past, present and forthcoming consequences of global warming.
“Mr Jadot uses codes characteristic of Mr Mitterrand with a tight close-up portrait and a glance looking into the distance,” Mr Moreau-Chevrolet said.
He also qualified Mr Jadot’s poster campaign as “refreshing.”
He said Mr Jadot used the services of American photographer Jonathan Mannion, famous for having profiled American rappers.