Influencer authors

Many writers, from Valry, Cocteau and Colette to Frdric Dard and Beigbeder, have lent their talent, their signature and sometimes their image to advertising promotion. Myriam Boucharenc traces the occult destiny of this controversial couple.

Advertisement for Lucky Strike cigarettes
Paul Colin, 1930

Professor of literature XXe century at the University of Paris-Ouest-Nanterre, M.Boucharenc signed with Éditions Champ Vallon a panoramic and pioneering study on a specialized subject, the relationships between literature and advertising, the history of which she undertakes to describe in a precise manner, documents as much as nuances what does not exclude dramatization effects served by an alert pen. This is because the couple at the center of the book is precisely a story couple, a controversial couple (p. 14) of which she traces honeymoons and gall moons (p. 59).

reading, we realize that the few cases known by the curious, Cocteau's advertising for Kayser stockings, the collaboration between Cendrars and Cassandre for Templier jewelry or Colette's contributions for Fourrures Max or Lucky Strike cigarettes, do not are just the tip of the iceberg. We also understand that at the crossroads of economic and social issues, where its legitimacy is played out and monetized, the history of literature has its full place in cultural history.

The work is the culmination of a vast research program, Littpub, whose website presents both the multiple activities and collections of digitized images, the Forney Library in particular. This work in the archives served as a template for illustrations, which are very numerous in this book, always in color, and most of the time judiciously inserted into the text.

A long story

The work clearly chooses the long term. We go back to the turn of the XXe shekel: from the Belle Epoque, the collaboration of writers came to the fore in the emerging publicity, keen in its early years to legitimize itself by joining the endorsement of the big names in the literary repertoire (p. 6). Mr. Boucharenc thus avoids the pitfall of a current view, often critical on the matter. With energy, she shows that advertising is for writers a ancient temptation who seems far from having said his last word (p. 316). The contemporary, notably the most famous case of advertising writer, Frdric Beigbeder, is only treated as an opening in conclusion. However, it is the horizon of this work which intends to relativize the disruption and reassure those who today would worry about seeing brands like Vuitton monopolize signatures or literature dissolving into a vast economy of attention. This concern has existed in literary circles since the XIXe century and the earthquakeTHE tremor of value on the scale of belles lettres is already behind us (p. 7). Nothing new under the sun, then.

The third part, Advertising pages, focuses on books and advertising prints, among the most beautiful creations of this intersecting history. We dwell at length on the best-known case, the Mariani Album (1894-1925), fourteen volumes of illustrated notes by celebrities praising the famous stimulating drink. But there is also a lot of talk about the invention, at the end of the 1920s, of advertising book: magnificent commercial brochures printed by Draeger, Galeries Lafayette diaries or medical and pharmaceutical journals, often luxurious publications.

The big names choose Ribet-Desjardins. Jean Cocteau
Advertising. DR. Source: City of Paris. Forney Library. Iconographic fund. Watchmaking box 3, file Alarm clock, clock, pendulum, chime…

The Manufrance catalog, less careful, reached the circulation prodigious of a million copies in the interwar period. One of the most interesting aspects of this intersecting history is the way in which advertising has entered the collective memory, thanks to writers like Alexandre Vialatte, Jean Cocteau, or the surrealists. The catalog is for Mr. Boucharenc a ghost Who has haunted literature since XXe century: the profusion of their images, the flavor of their phraseology have inspired poets, awakened nostalgia for childhood territories and fueled the production of pastiche and avant-garde montages (p. 239).

We often imagine the avant-gardes singing the praises of modernity, but Mr. Boucharenc offers a welcome clarification: there were two schools, a modernist position that of Cendrars which calls for a advertising export of poetryin his provocative text Advertising = Posie and a surrealist position which aims to divert advertising from its commercial purpose, towards a surrealist recycling of commercial idioms (p. 95). The debate was often mocking and sometimes violent, as evidenced by Aragon's attack on Pierre Benot's luxury brochure, Antina (1922), however one of the most sumptuous advertising brochures of the time (p. 99). Between the two, many authors were caught in a love-hate relationship towards advertising, which sometimes evokes the relationship that literature may have had with cinema. Andr Beucler, novelist and journalist from the interwar period, published for example Literature and advertising In Marianne in 1935 to vilify the evolution of an advertisement that he loved so much, but which had become a hyper-grocery store made of slogans which cotton the gogo (p. 57).

All compromises?

The relationship between advertising and literature is fueled by value conflicts that transform over time. Advertising has been praised to the skies by some avant-gardes as the instrument of rethinking of aesthetic and cultural values ​​which took shape in the aftermath of the Great War (p. 59). conversely, the majority critical position in literary circles was nourished by an anti-Americanism which was undoubtedly one of the vectors of French resistance to advertising (p. 68). In the first part, Mr. Boucharenc masterfully recounts the transition from the figure of the activist to the advertiser, or from the puff (as the sales pitch was called in XIXe century) to bluff (winning strategy from poker).

In these pages, she analyzes the debates, the launch of prizes, the editorial collections, the most famous of which is The Kings of the daydirected by Andr Beucler at Gallimard, the principle of which was to have a company finance a commissioned work, which was to provide a romance documentation according to period contracts. The collection, which lasted a long time, is best known today for the phenomenal advance obtained by Paul Morand (70,000 francs, more than 40,000 current), with the CIDNA (Compagnie Internationale de Navigation Arienne) for a text, Orient Arrowwho obviously says nothing!

You, Pome de Colette
Paris, Editions des Fourrures Max, imp. Draegher, 1925. Source: City of Paris. Forney Library. Commercial catalogs. CC 1029 Max 1925. Public domain.

M.Boucharenc dissects the productions of the three best-known advertising authors, she calls them 3CCocteau, Cendrars and Colette, which she depicts in influencer (pp. 189-208). But it also uses surprise effects by revealing the advertising work of Paul Valry or Francis Ponge. Throughout the work, we discover the names of the writers who have compromise with advertising because it's good a suspicion of infamy who plays them (p. 27).

This question of compromise is addressed from different angles. It is first nuanced according to the symbolic positions of each party: the public accepts more easily that Frdric Dard sells a Camembert than Sartre advertises Universal watches! Among popular authors, fans of transgression, this seems almost natural. But The writer and advertising encourage to qualify the accusations of compromise on another level. It shows that often the writer does not write so much For the advertisement that by she (p. 292), it is sometimes nothing other than a circumstance of publication, like other journalistic or preface orders. The proof is that writers have often reintegrated their texts into a literary circuit: Colette has reused her articles and Ponge attempts to place them back in the NRF his advertising text on electricity (p. 293). If others like Mac Orlan, who nevertheless wrote a lot for advertising, have not taken up their texts, it is not to refuse compromise, but to avoid distorting them and retaining their specificity.

Finally, the book invites us to consider advertising as a literature opener (p. 296). For example, it does Paul Valry a lot of good, as the order subtracts the pressure that his ideal of the work and his super-ego as author do not fail to exert on him (p. 297). This is one of the main merits of the work: bringing to the fore the question of order, which has long been an unthinkable in literary studies.

What is a signature worth??

Another great merit of the work is that it does not avoid economic questions. We are far from the false modesty of traditional literary stories. Advertising has been part of the double life that has been the lot of writers for a long time (the author refers to the work of sociologist Bernard Lahire). It is good second job even if the income linked to advertising remains anecdotal compared to that of journalism.

In this matter, Mr. Boucharenc proceeds with finesse and shows that in the commercial relationship which has been established between advertising and writers, there is no Manichaean exploitation. The analysis is notable when dealing with the details of financial agreements and differentiating between types of advertising writers: the “people” of the time, () Colette who we discover as a skilled negotiator, Cocteau, Paul Morand, Sacha Guitryan environment where we enter by co-optation, as we see with Louise de Vilmorin, those that M.Boucharenc calls the second knives (p. 134), the pledge authors (p. 141), who occasionally take part in the game or even the salaried writers such as Zola, Mistral, Ponge, Anouilh or Cline. There are many forms of commercial association: sponsorship, secret transactions or payment in kind. Mac Orlan benefited, for example, from a new car every year, in exchange for his few advertising texts for Peugeot (p. 154).

Pierre Mac Orlan, Alfred or the sentimental and honest life of an azure inner conduct
said by La Raffinerie de Ptrole du Nord and Purfina, around 1930; Source: Myriam Boucharenc Collection

Economic and legal questions quickly bring Mr. Boucharenc to the field of symbolic value, in particular with the question of the signature, preferably autograph, which accompanies the advertising productions of writers, just like the handwriting which appears in the beautiful advertising for Ford that Colette made in 1933, reproduced on the cover of the book. The signature is remarkably analytical for Cocteau, summoning Barthes and his Variations on writing: with the facsimile, the brand appropriates the signature, makes it a marketing object from which the writer relinquishes himself, but in return for this expropriation(he) signs more than a text, he co-signs a brand of which he therefore shares the enjoyment (p. 187).

The importance of the signature shows the source of many misunderstandings: it is names, more than skills, that companies seek when addressing writers. We thus understand that literature was used by advertisers as a cultural alibi (p. 137), notably with theposthumous exploitation of great authors “fallen into the public domain” (p. 138) like Baudelaire or Goethe, a fascinating subject on which we would have liked to read more.

Littpub has taken the form of collective work through numerous conferences since 2015, but this excellent summary on the relationships between literature and advertising in XXe century will remain as his major production. The writer and advertising is not only a door that closes, it is also an invitation to continue the work of exhumation, and theoretical reflection.

erudite, the essay also makes you smile because Mr. Boucharenc knows how to transmit texts and anecdotes with relish. She uses rhetorical resources which sometimes seem borrowed from her corpus, rich in images and sharp formulas. This story of a temptation is a joyful, intelligent and open literary story.