PARIS - The car is not the star of a global image campaign Renault launched September 29 to coincide with the opening of the Paris auto show.
In some countries, such as the UK, the French carmaker's long-running television campaign for the Clio made the supermini more famous than the Renault brand itself.
The Clio campaign featured the adventures of a young woman called Nicole and her father - or 'papa.'
Renault's dilemma: How to create advertisements capable of moving cars out of showrooms while at the same time building a lasting image for the Renault brand.
The cornerstone of Renault's new global image is the slogan: 'Renault, creator of cars.' It is Renault's first new slogan in 15 years.
Renault is capitalizing on its reputation for creating new car segments. It launched Europe's first full-size minivan (Espace), the world's first compact minivan (Scenic) and was among the first to pioneer a new generation of city cars (Twingo).
It is getting ready to launch the futuristic Avantime luxury coupe.
Renault has been working on its new slogan and global image strategy for three years with its advertising agencies.
Publicis holds the Renault business in Europe except in Italy, which it shares with Saatchi & Saatchi, and Spain, where Tiempo/BBDO holds the account.
It was actually Tiempo/BBDO that won the competition for the slogan, while Renault later chose Publicis to create the advertising campaign to introduce it.
In 1985, Renault's previous slogan - which loosely translates in some markets as 'cars with flair' - appeared at a time when many Europeans consumers were 'cocooned' in their lives and were less open to the outside world. That is the opinion of Thierry Lacaze, vice president-worldwide account director on the Renault business at Publicis Worldwide in Paris.
'The situation of Renault has changed dramatically. Renault was a European brand; it is now becoming a worldwide brand,' Lacaze said. 'People have changed and are more active, more willing to do things and more willing to take risks in their lives.'
French consumers are likely to be aware of Renault's tradition for innovation. But consumers in countries such as Brazil, Turkey or Poland may not immediately associate Renault with innovation, said Nicolas de Gaulmyn, international coordinator for Renault at Publicis.
In the past, Renault has focused on a product-led strategy. That meant promoting individual models rather than the Renault brand itself.
'The main goal in terms of advertising is to create the perception that Renault is the most innovative brand in the car market,' Lacaze said. 'This is not saying to people that Renault is doing something that it has not done in the past. It's just revealing something in the genes of Renault.'
The new Renault campaign has started in France. Advertisements will begin in the UK later this month, before rolling out to the rest of Europe by November.
A billboard and newspaper campaign features 'pieces of creation' - a series of close-up photos of parts of unidentified Renaults, such as the rear light of the Avantime or the wing mirror of the Espace. A final advertisement reveals an entire car.
A global television commercial features French fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier.
'The object of the commercial is to make a link in people's minds between creativity and Renault,' de Gaulmyn said.
The television commercial begins with Gaultier creating haute couture design. He sketches an idea for a dress on an artist's pad and views the final design on a model. The model then leaves the catwalk and sees a Renault Avantime.
Viewers then watch how the Avantime was created - in reverse. The car is seen being dipped in a tank of undercoating, being designed on a computer screen, and finally being sketched on a drawing board.