Don’t be like Emily in Paris, says Duolingo campaign

To mark season two of the Netflix hit, the language-learning app invites Emilys everywhere to improve their French

The show, which has become something of a phenomenon, depicts the life of an American marketing executive who finds herself transplanted to Paris. Much has been written about the series, in particular Emily’s ongoing struggle to tap into French language and culture.

Duolingo’s new campaign, by BETC, piggybacks on the programme, making light of its impact on pop culture and in particular how challenging it’s made life for all Emilys living in Paris. “She showed up looking pretty, but she didn’t speak a lick of French,” says one especially grumpy Emily.

The film goes on to encourage viewers to avoid the character’s bad example, and instead take some French lessons using Duolingo – even if, as one Emily admits, the owl is a little pushy. That way, says the ad, at least you’ll understand the terrible things French people are saying about you.

The campaign launched to coincide with the season premiere, and for 48 hours from when the first new episode became available offered viewers named Emily a month of free Duolingo Plus – presumably to tap into any lingering feelings of shame viewers had while watching the character blunder through the language.

It’s a clever move to hijack the show and taps into the sense of fun that runs through Duolingo’s wider communications. Plus, as BETC creative director David Martin Angelus points out, “It’s always more entertaining when brands interact with culture instead of trying just to sell you their product.” So, en français, and as the ad suggests, it’s bon courage and bon voyage to a campaign that taps into the zeitgeist in a way that’s genuinely enjoyable.

Agency: BETC
Creative Directors: Stephane Xiberras, David Martin Angelus
Art Directors: Moritz Maus, Erika Reyes
Production Company: Maison Pop