When Air France took a hit at Stoke-on-Trent – and we hit back – .

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When Air France took a hit at Stoke-on-Trent – and we hit back – .


It was enough to break any cordial agreement between Piccadilly de Hanley and the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
An advertising campaign launched by Air France in 1993 suffocated potters with their oatmeal pancakes. The airline had imagined a poster, prompting the British to taste the delights of the French capital.

He was pointing to an elegant candlelit restaurant in Paris… and likening the place to a greasy spoon cafe in Stoke-on-Trent.

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Both were “only an hour and 25 minutes away,” the ad model reads. Presumably referring to the travel time from London, although they did not offer direct flights to Hanley.

Air France’s campaign prompted The Sentinel to send columnist John Abberley and photographer Dave Trumble to Paris to check out the competition.

They came back with images of trash-strewn streets, dark and grimy watering holes, and the piece de resistance – a snapshot of a seedy cafe scrawled with graffiti.



The Sentinel report on the May 1993 controversy

This image was the centerpiece of a counter-advertising campaign. We turned the tables on the airline by presenting one of the less healthy restaurants in the Barbes district.

To show the culinary offerings of Stoke-on-Trent, our poster showed a young couple enjoying the gourmet cuisine of the Moat House in Etruria.

The copy read, “Spring in Paris, France, just an hour and 25 minutes away… The same goes for Stoke-on-Trent (and we have top quality dinnerware). You can’t beat a break from pottery.

Sentinel readers could even cut out and keep their poster, which printed on the front page. Copies were also distributed via business and tourism networks, some sent to Air France itself, to the French Embassy and to the Mayor of Paris.



Air France’s announcement

Sean Dooley, then editor of the newspaper, said: “We may not be the most fashionable city in the world, and we have our black spots. But where is it not?

“We wanted to show that there are parts of Paris that we just wouldn’t tolerate in the Potteries. And we wanted to give Air France a well-deserved kick in the fuselage.

“It’s one thing to have a sense of humor – but here we’re talking about a deliberately distorted image that could hamper a lot of hard work to grow our tourism business. “



The Sentinel’s counter-announcement

Abbo, normally never short of opinion in his columns, was equally blunt in his assessment.

In a Sentinel-colored room, he wrote: “Take a short cab ride from the chic cafes on the Champs Elysees. and you see the spring sun of Paris shining in the streets of dirt and misery.

“Even on a whirlwind visit, you can find places in the French capital today that would have been doomed and swept away years ago if they had been in Stoke-on-Trent. “



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As he and his traveling companion Dave toured the area, their taxi driver admitted to never having heard of Stoke-on-Trent.

“We also didn’t have two other cab drivers that we used,” added John. “One of them thought, from our strange conversation, that we were from Yugoslavia.

“The only consolation was that all three had heard of Stanley Matthews. And they knowed an Englishman named Wedgwood made pottery.

Air France touchdown.

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