This campaign is a PR campaign because it aimed to trigger a national debate to influence the political agenda to change a European law. Against the powerful lobbies of agro-chemistry, mobilizing the media, public opinion, as well as key ambassadors and key opinion leaders was the only possible approach to reach our objective. In this campaign, we put ourselves at risk by using our privileged position as the market leader to tip the balance for a fair cause.
People have access to only 3% of existing cereals, vegetables, and fruits in Europe. The other 97% (two million « Farmers’ seeds» varieties) are illegal, because producers can only sell what is registered in the Official Catalogue of Authorized Species, defined by the agrochemical lobby. As a result, 90% of farmable varieties have already disappeared worldwide since the 20th century (FAO), farmers depend on hybrids, and consumers are deprived from a wide range of superior produces, richer in nutrients, taste, and better for the environment.
Carrefour has long fought for better food quality, producers’ rights and biodiversity, but few people know about it, as we suffer from our image as a large CAC40 company.
Brief: Use Carrefour's leadership power to fight for biodiversity and reveal Carrefour's commitment to food quality to everybody.
Objective: Achieve a real change in favor of biodiversity, that impacts Carrefour’s brand image in the long run.
Describe the creative idea
To change the Law, Carrefour decided to defy the law, and launched the BlackSupermarket.
Illegal BlackSupermarket installations were created in Carrefour’s stores nationally to sell illegal varieties of cereals, vegetables, and fruits. We asked people to join the cause by buying the illegal products in our stores and by signing our petition on Change.org to change the law. Print, outdoor, web films and our instore BlackSupermarket installations revealed the absurdity of the law, and turned our illegal producers into national heroes. Against the law, we signed a 5-year supply contract with them, and invited key opinion leaders to witness the signature.
Against powerful lobbies, we chose the illegal path to make sure we’d be heard by key opinion leaders, the public opinion, and politicians up to Brussels where decisions are made. It was the first time a retailer broke the law to make it change.
Describe the strategy
Changing a European law is an impossible mission when you’re up against the powerful agrochemical lobby. We could have chosen the legal way: submit a bill, work our way up the bureaucratie, and wait years to see it crushed by lobbies. But after 40 years of prohibition and dozens of draft laws had been rejected in the total indifference of the media, we chose the most unconventional, noisiest way, the illegal way.
To get maximum awareness, we launched the campaign during the French National Food Forum, a major government summit reuniting politicians and the food industry. We first targeted KOLs - chefs, philosophers, prominent journalists - to put farmers’ seeds on the public agenda. We then targeted the general public to create a plebiscite for the cause and bend the political agenda. Our strategy was simple, against lobbies working behind closed doors, we chose provocation before the eyes of all.
Describe the execution
The campaign prelaunched on September 19th, with an exclusive « illegal dinner » with chef Christophe Saintagne inviting KOLs and journalists to discover these delicious illegal varieties. They witnessed the signature of the illegal 5-year supply contract with producers, and the donation of 1Million€ to our biodiversity fund for farmers’ seeds preservation. We launched our change.org petition during the event, so KOLs would be the first signatories and the first to share the petition. It allowed us to rally powerful ambassadors: journalists, chefs - usually critical of the retail industry - to fuel the conversation.
Then, on September 20th, our illegal BlackSupermarkets opened in our stores nationally, allowing everybody to support the cause. Our web film - starring our illegal producers - revealed and explained the issue to the general public. Our producers lent their voice on as many media outlets as we could, asking people to sign the petition.
List the results
You know you’ve succeeded when the lobbies fight back. The FNSEA, the major agricultural union in France - representative of intensive farming, and armed wing of Monsanto - sent us several threat letters to force us to stop the campaign and remove the BlackSupermarkets from the stores. We did not.
To consult the exact text of the European law ratified on April 19th 2018, please report to Procedure 2014/0100(COD) on Organic production. For farmers’ seeds specifically (« heterogeneous material »), please report to the following sections:
• Motives : § (37) and (38), p. 19-20
• Art. 3, definitions : § (18) p. 62
• Art 4, Objectives, § (i), p. 75
• Art. 6, principles, § (g), p. 80
• Art 13, p. 93-95