Obituaries: Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet

The history of advertising in France is unusual. Newspapers were slow to make space for publicity. It was widely held that advertising meant corruption (and so it did when Marcel Proust had to pay both journalist and newspaper in order to get a favourable review). But, just as the French overcame their reluctance to have anything to do with the banks or with the stock exchange, so advertising and publicity have become a vital part of national activities. Were proof needed one has only to look at the eulogies delivered for Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, on his death at the age of 89. One left-wing journal hailed him on its front page as the Pope of Publicity, "le Pape de la Pub".

Of course, every country is proud of its rags-to-riches citizens. Bleustein, as he was called, was born in 1906 of a Jewish family living in Montmartre. He attended the local school where his main preoccupation was to sit near the stove in winter and near the door in summer. He left as soon as possible carrying with him a certificate which stated that he was able to read, to write and to count. Bleustein never tired of telling the story, always adding that mention should have been made that he was also able to speak. An ability to convince, together with a supreme self- confidence, explains his success.

For a time he worked in the furniture business of Leviten (he was related to the family) and then set up in two small rooms on the Faubourg-Montmartre as a publicity agent. At first it was difficult and he found that possible customers did not know what he was talking about. But he inspired confidence. His agency, Publicis, was founded in 1926 ("cis" for "six", in French) and in 1929 he first had the idea of using the radio for publicity purposes; it was an immense success. Reputedly in this year he became a millionaire.

Bleustein used every method to promote himself. On one occasion he booked a table for dinner in Maxim's and, when the restaurant was full, he went round all those who were dining there, the smartest of the smart, introduced himself and shook hands. People were puzzled, but informed.

In 1934 the austere Georges Mandel became minister responsible for the Post Office and its services, and he banned all advertising on radio. Bleustein was ruined. But he picked himself up and created his own radio station, Radio Cite. The risk paid off. It was a great success, thanks to the artists who appeared there, including many who were becoming famous, such as Tino Rossi, Charles Trenet, Edith Piaf and Jean Sablon.

And Bleustein was the inventor of the advertising slogan. His phrases were repeated on the radio and throughout France. Many are still remembered. In the days of furs and fur coats, there was the unforgettable "Brunswick, le fourreur qui fait fureur". Bleustein was part of French life.

In 1939 he served in the air force. In 1940 the Germans took over Radio Cite and looked for its owner, who spent some time in a Spanish prison before joining de Gaulle. He then adopted the name of Blanchet and was on the staff of General Koenig, who was one of the first Free French leaders to land in France.

Back in France he brought many Gaullists into the publicity business, although Albert Camus was bitterly disappointed not to have his financial support for a progressive newspaper. Instead, Bleustein-Blanchet collaborated with Pierre Lazareff (with whom he had been at school) for the paper France- Soir. Installed in the buildings of the Hotel Astoria on the Champs-Elysees (which were burned down in 1972 but rebuilt), he knew everyone and was alert to a France that was rapidly changing. Who else would have told de Gaulle in 1958 that he had no idea of how he should appear on television? (And de Gaulle took his advice.) Who else would have installed a drug- store on the Champs-Elysees and in the Latin Quarter?

Bleustein-Blanchet was one of the first to understand the importance of public opinion polls, in commerce and in politics, and he was instrumental in organising what has become a minor industry and an inescapable facet of French life.

In 1939 he married Sophie Vaillant, the granddaughter of Edouard Vaillant, one of the founding fathers of French socialism.

Marcel Bleustein, advertising and publicity entrepreneur: born Paris 1906; married 1939 Sophie Vaillant (three daughters); died Paris 11 April 1996.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers