Father of Quebec’s ad industry dies

Philippe Mercure La Presse, May 30, 2006 (Translated from the French original)

Quebec advertising pioneer Jacques Bouchard, 75, dies of cancer this morning

The man who sold Laura Secord puddings to Quebecers because “they make the little Simards sing” is no more. Jacques Bouchard, the father of advertising made by Quebecers for Quebecers, succumbed to cancer on Monday, at the age of 75. “He really was the father of contemporary advertising in Quebec,” said Professor Jacques Nantel, who teaches marketing at HEC Montréal.

“Jacques Bouchard was the very first to persuade the big companies – General Foods, Kraft, General Motors and others in their class – that to sell successfully to Quebecers their ads would have to be created in Quebec.” Quebecers know Bouchard indirectly through slogans that have made history in this province.

From “Pop-sac-à-vie-sau-sec-fi-co-pin” for Desjardins Caisses Populaires and Hydro-Québec’s “On est 12,012 pour assurer votre confort” to “Mon bikini, ma brosse à dents” or “On est six millions, faut se parler,” Jacques Bouchard was behind them all.

Daniel Tardif of the Association of Quebec Advertising Agencies remembers especially the spot for Labatt featuring Olivier Guimond and his “Lui, y connaît ça.”

“Jacques Bouchard was the first to have Quebec performing artists appear in advertising,” Yves Gougoux recalls, who worked with him and today heads the BCP agency founded by Bouchard. “At the time, this was totally new. And he touched something important, because worship of home-grown stars has always been strong in Quebec.”

“That started the ball rolling for composers writing music for ads, the TV advertising production industry in Montreal and the whole infrastructure around the business of advertising,” Gougoux says.

“Nowadays, someone comes and opens a factory with 400 jobs in Quebec and we say, Wow, that’s amazing! Bouchard brought the whole advertising industry to Quebec. That’s no small achievement,” says Jacques Nantel of HEC Montréal.

Jacques Duval, president of the Marketel agency, is emphatic. “I’d never be in the line of work I’m doing today if Jacques Bouchard hadn’t opened the way.”

According to Duval, Bouchard’s greatest contribution was to move Quebec-born creative staff and managers from Anglophone agencies to Francophone advertising firms.

A niche for Quebecers

For players in Quebec’s advertising sector, Jacques Bouchard is also the man who created their first forum to meet and trade ideas: the Publicité Club de Montréal, which he co-founded in 1959.

The club’s annual advertising competition, among other things, has contributed significantly toward stimulating Quebec-based creativity. Then, in 1963, Jacques Bouchard founded BCP, the first major advertising firm in the province.

To capture Quebecers’ attention and sell products to them, the first thing necessary was to understand them.

There too Jacques Bouchard was a pioneer.

He was the author of several analytical studies of advertising, including Les 36 Cordes sensibles des Québécois (The 36 Heartstrings of Quebecers) which remains a landmark work: a Polaroid snapshot of Quebecers and the specific features of their culture. “This book was a real ground breaker,” says Jacques Nantel.

How exactly was Bouchard able to identify the character of Quebecers? “He read a lot, and consulted a lot of people,” says Yves Gougoux. “There are sociologists who worked with him to better understand the cultural traits of Quebecers. Jacques was very much a populist, in the sense that he understood instinctively what made people tick.”

Jacques Bouchard remained active for a long time in the ad sector. In 1981, he founded the Centre international de publicité sociétale (International centre for public service advertising) for the purpose of developing a type of advertising that’s focused on public awareness instead of consumption.

In 1985, with Yves Gougoux, he co-founded a program at UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal) to train the next generation of advertising experts. Together they also launched the Mondial de la publicité francophone (World festival of French-language advertising) in 1987.

In 1998, Jacques Bouchard lent his name to the Office de la langue française, which has created the Jacques Bouchard Awards honoring distinguished use of the French language in advertising.