Do not abandon

The French animal rights foundation ’30 Millions D’Amis’ (30 million friends) has been relentless in communicating and sensitizing people about animal abuse and abandonment for a very long time. It started as a TV program, by the French journalist Jean-Pierre Hutin, in 1976, added a magazine in 1978, and a foundation was launched in 1995.

What interested me, in particular, is the Foundation’s on-going work with the French advertising agency Altmann + Pacreau. The two have been releasing at least one ad film every year since 2016, like a series, that focuses on pet abandonment, in specific.

The stories they tell are highly emotional, rooted in reality. Between 100,000 and 200,000 pets are abandoned in France each year, with 60% of these incidents occurring over the summer. France seems to have the dubious distinction of being the country in Europe with the highest pet abandonment incidences!

So, 30 Millions D’Amis and Altmann + Pacreau’s ad films gain particular significance.

Take the latest film, for instance.

The narrative is built around a court hearing. Who is the ‘culprit’, what the culprit’s ‘crimes’ are, and ‘punishment’ is, forms the crux of a film that delivers a deadly blow at your conscience. The culprit’s reaction and expressions add to that impact.

The 2016 and 2017 films have non-linear narrative structures that make you see the same events in a different light. This is a phenomenally effective narrative device that works wonders in terms of story-telling in both films.

Here is the 2016 film. Read my note (below) after seeing the film.

In the 2016 ad film, what we see in the beginning is a faithful dog by his/her master’s side in the hospital. As the scenes unfold in reverse, we see how the first scene came to be. And then you realize that even as the human abandons the dog, the dog doesn’t abandon the master at any point, and in fact, relentlessly pursues the master and stays at his service no matter what the circumstance. The dog cannot even decipher the idea of being abandoned – think of this from the dog’s point of view!

Here is the 2017 film – again, watch the film first and then read my note below.

The 2017 film improvises on the 2016 film’s narrative! But, unlike one story that plays in reverse all through, in 2017, the agency splits the same story from 2 perspectives – the first half is the story played in reverse, leading to a happy ending. The 2nd half is the story played in the actual sequence, leading to a sad ending. Like the 2016 film, I couldn’t help but see the film all over again, immediately.

The 2018 film is my personal favorite given the incredible detailing in the script. Read my note after seeing the film.

The pet dog grows up with the little girl and we get to see an entire lifetime of the pet through the various life stages of the girl. The intricate beauty of the film is in the selection of life stages of the girl (including one where she is down with fever and the dog is right beside her, the dog covering its ears when the girl, now a teen is playing the drums, the way the dog interrupts with a ball when she is on the verge being kissed for the first time and then the immediate shift to her wedding photos that include the dog… and almost instantly to her being pregnant – a wonderful montage) and in the beautifully seamless scene transitions (the absolute best is the one around the birthday cake when she turns 15 in the immediate next scene).

This is also the only film in the agency and Foundation’s repertoire so far that features an ‘abandonment’ of a different sort, but with a strong meaning and purpose. The dog does not get abandoned at all unlike any other film in this series, and despite that twist, the impact is as strong as the others.

The 2019 film is the odd one out! It turns into a musical, using the fact that the French are ‘champions’ of pet abandonment as a motif to build on the narrative.

The Foundation’s work is mighty impressive when you see the series of films together as against just one film. Their relentless focus on the message seems to have helped the agency to truly imbibe the crux of the problem and produce immensely impactful work year after year. This is a wonderful example of long-standing client-agency relationships.

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