When Dominique Strauss-Kahn was marched from New York’s JFK Airport under suspicion of attempted rape just over a week ago, it had the unintended consequence of shining a spotlight on the highest echelons of the French advertising industry.
DSK has long been advised by a cabal ofsomeof France’s biggest advertising names. Ramzi Khiroun, Stephane Fouks, Anne Hommel, and Gilles Finkelstein have been anointed by the press as the “Four Musketeers”; the quartet have been shaping DSK’s public image and guiding his career for years. His anticipated success in next year’s French presidential election was testament to their success. All, now, turned to dust.
The Musketeers work for Euro RSCG, a French advertising agency owned by Havas, which is controlled by the charismatic industrialist Vincent Bollore.
Much has been made in recent days of the four advertising executives turned king-makers, but in France this confluence of advertising and politics is nothing new.
With an estimated fortune of $1.7bn and ranked by Forbes as the 736th richest person in the world, Bollore’s assets span everything from freight to paper for Bibles. Nicolas Sarkozy is a close friend.
The chief executive of Havas is a Brit. David Jones’s rise into the very heart of the French advertising world would not have been possible had he not been fluent in French and married into a well connected French family. He looks the epitome of a conservative Brit, but his French roots go deep.
And the fact that he was influential in helping David Cameron rise to power will have proved his credentials for slipping into that space where French advertising and politics so comfortably meet.
Claire Beale is editor of Campaign