France Telecom commissioned an advertising gem for the World Football Cup in 1998 with “Les Douaniers” (Customs Officers), winning gold at Cannes in 1999, and succeeding in living up to their tagline, “Football gets people talking”. In the sweltering heat of a border crossing, a customs officer works on strategy. Inside the customs office, he bounces a soccer ball and passes it to a young woman. She knows what to do.
A young man driving through the border is stopped and asked to transport a pregnant woman to the other side. She appeals to him, holding her pregnant belly in a way that crosses language barriers. From the other side of the border, another customs officer keeps an eye on the proceedings, with great concern. Customs guards tear through the driver’s possessions, looking for evidence of contraband, it seems. As the car drives through the barrier, the first customs officer phones through his exultant cry, “Goal!”. The woman holds out her dress and drops the soccer ball on the road. The tagline: “Football gets people talking”.
“Les Douaniers” was developed at CLM BBDO by creative director Anne de Maupeou, art director Vincent Behaeghel, copywriter Bernard Naville, agency producer Pierre Marcus, working with Telecom marketing director Bruno Janet.
Filming was shot by director Peter Smillie, via Smillie Films, Los Angeles, New York, with producer Deb Schneider.
Music, inspired by Ry Cooder’s 1997 album, Buena Vista Social Club, was arranged at Barrera Productions.
The FIFA World Cup was held in France from June to July 1998. France beat Paraguay, Italy, Croatia, and finally Brazil to become number one team.
What makes this ad so memorable is the cinematography. The sepia filter, the sweat on the faces, and the dust all combine with the Cuban sound to take us to the border crossing.
Les Douaniers won Grand Prix (Best Overall Commercial) at the New York Festival in 2000.