How French Connection reversed its fortunes with new ad styles

Joe is Marketing Week’s agency specialist.

It’s so long FCUK and hello “I am…” in the French Connection marketing stable, under the new helm of 101. The effects seem to be paying off and the company has reported that it is firmly back on a growth track with revenue up 7% to £102.8m in the first six months.


In its investors presentation French Connection hails its new marketing approach, saying product quality and brand consistency is the mainstay and raising awareness, creating intrigue and demonstrating confidence are its ambitions.

IThis has not been easy for the brand over the last few years and agencies have been under pressure to produce new ideas to make the fashion label appeal to all audiences.

Its current agency, 101, was first hired as a creative consultant in February. Incumbents Fallon severed its ties with the client two months later, having won the £5m House of Fraser account.

So what has 101 done to win over such confidence from the brand (to the extent that even the company’s investor presentation pack begins and ends with ad stills)?

According to the company, the agency has delivered an ad concept that is injecting a new theme of modernism into the brand. As a result, it has splashed out on a “small increase in expenditure on advertising and promotion”

The retailer’s more sophisticated approach to marketing includes a Facebook page with links to products, and YouTique, an interactive video shop that allows users to purchase products by clicking on the items on a YouTube video.

Picking up where Fallon left off, the agency has continued working with 101’s creative director, Richard Flintham, who was responsible for French Connection’s previous ’The Man’ and ’The Woman’ work when he was executive creative director at Fallon.

Directed and photographed by Leila and Damien de Blinkk, the campaigns will be staggered throughout the season, with a constantly evolving message conveyed digitally, in cinema, on TV, in print, outdoor and in store windows. Its theme is that all clothes on sale are “hero garments” – a far cry from the previously youthful theme of the infamous fcuk branding, which worked for its similarity to a well known swear word, but could not last forever.


Prior to Fallon’s appointment in 2010, French Connection achieved notoriety for hard-edged campaigns created by BMB and TBWA respectively. It was BMB who helped to create the moniker FCUK, which ran for many years before eventually being dropped in 2009.

Such a renaissance in ads has required some serious faith for the brand. Fallon’s work last year was the first brand ad campaign since 2006 and had to bring back the slightly daring nature of the brand. With the I am hero series, 101 has taken the brand a step forward and removed any scepticism that plagued the brand following the sale of businesses such as the Nicole Farhi collection.

Its new ads work because it has reinvented the brand with an expression rooted in the French Connection heritage, and importantly the brand has instructed the agency to produce a 360-degree brand experience. Securing spots within The X Factor will help to boost this experience even further and reintroduce audiences to this alternative designer offering.

Combined with celebrity backing from the likes of Pippa Middleton. Angelina Jolie, Dougray Scott and Maria Sharapova, it’s clear to see that French Connection’s new look and feel is working a treat. The brand is clearly feeling resurgent, now it’s up to the adverts to keep driving that success forward. The investment is there, and it looks like the creative is ready for the challenge ahead.

To see all the YouTique ads by 101, visit:



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