As part of the upcoming municipal elections all across Quebec on Nov. 1, the Directeur général des élections du Québec decided to pay an advertising agency to come up with a campaign to get people to vote.
Cossette, the agency in question, came up with this parody of a news/opinion TV talk show with an over-the-top anchor, which it released on YouTube (and fed to Dominic Arpin) hoping for it to go viral.
The video is well done and pretty funny, and most who see it will immediately think of former TQS anchor Jean-Luc Mongrain, who now has a show on all-news network LCN. Probably for that reason more than any other, it went crazy viral, with over 30,000 views in under four days.
The reaction from Mongrain and LCN’s owner TVA when they saw the video was surprising: they’re furious. Mongrain took the ad’s creator to task on his show for not letting him know ahead of time about the parody. TVA sent a letter to the DGEQ demanding that the video be taken down because it sullies his reputation.
Here’s the thing: Nowhere in the video are the words “LCN” or “Mongrain”. The show is called “Chouinard en direct” for the fictional network “RDN” (a mix of “RDI” and “LCN”). The set isn’t the same, the graphics aren’t the same, and the host doesn’t look like Mongrain. The only thing that ties the video to Mongrain is the theatrical way the actor acts and gestures.
TVA’s complaint is that the video might negatively affect Mongrain’s reputation. Setting aside for a second whether his existing reputation could be dirtied by portraying him as an over-the-top drama queen, there’s an inherent contradiction in this logic. Either this video is aimed directly at Mongrain because his style is mimiced so exactly, or his reputation is taking a hit because they’re portraying him as something he isn’t.
I can see TVA’s point that this is a government-funded ad for an election, and so should take great pains to be as non-partisan as possible. But despite TVA’s objections, I can’t see how this could put Mongrain in a “delicate situation” in the run-up to the election.
TVA and Mongrain saw a guy acting crazy on TV, and concluded it damages their reputation. That only works if you already know that Mongrain is crazy. And if you already know that, how is his reputation affected by this video?
Judging from the comments on Mongrain’s blog, it would seem he’s not getting that much support playing the victim here.
Jean-Luc, this video isn’t an over-the-top caricature of a crazy TV news man. You are. Lighten up and learn to laugh at yourself.
UPDATE: The DGEQ has refused TVA’s request to take the video down and cancel the ad campaign.