hard slog to promote second village event
In our part of the South of France promotion and publicity from “manifestation” (village event) to “grandes surfaces” (national chain stores) still relies heavily on the old school work ethic of sweat and shoe-leather.
Local events are generally promoted by tying card backed A4 or A3 home made fly posters to road signs and lamp posts. The Mairie (local council) and more determined associations will push a flyer or semi professional magazine through the letter box.
National scale brand name businesses still doggedly use direct marketing and hand deliver their “prospectuses” (leaflets and magazines) door to door. Once or twice a week an avalanche of”pub” (pronounced “poob”) arrives with a clatter inside the front door.
We love poob. It’s a bargain hunter’s dream of all the offers in all the hypermarkets. Ironically the whole monde français seems to hate it. Many post boxes have an old, faded, hand lettered request for “pas de pub” scotch taped to the flap, and there was – maybe still is – a largely ineffectual organised eco-campaign against it called “Stop Pub”.
Poob-hate aside, what we’d seen suggested the best ways to reach local eyeballs were through the letter box or road signs close to a stop line. So that was the model we adopted to promote our second year timetable of classes and our second annual “vide grenier” (car boot sale).
Even in a small village of around 2,000 people this is hard labour. When you’ve visited every one of nearly 1,000 homes on foot you learn a new perspective on the casual and inconsiderate use of phrases like “a small village”.
If you’re interested, to visit every letter-box in the main body of the village takes a complete working day.
The houses are generally about 10 metres apart, with some in shared clusters and some in lonely splendour at the end of lonely roads or long private driveways. A print run of 1,000 flyers takes an 8 hour stop-and-start trudge of at least 10 kilometres.
If nothing else, we now have much more respect for the “poob” man, or men. They make the same journey every week to they deliver the equivalent of a Sunday newspaper to every house.
We’ve also realised that sometimes French red tape isn’t completely arbitrary. French letter-boxes are supposed to be a regulation size, fixed at a regulation height and easy to reach from the foot-path, so that French postmen can do their rounds entirely from the seat of a motor-scooter, with every mail-slot conveniently at arms-length.
We’ve owned our home in France since 2005, and when we moved permanently we thought we knew the village and the surrounding area area pretty well. It isn’t a big village, but even after 2 years living “on-site” the fly-posting trudge revealed parts old and new that we didn’t know existed. We discovered that the village we thought we knew is much bigger than we expected, with hidden networks of streets nested inside each other and housing developments that we had no idea existed.
I can still draw and label a map of the housing estate where I grew up, despite moving away 30 years ago. We’re never going to know Bassan as well as we know our English home towns, but our efforts to promote the association have given us a great, healthy way to discover more about it.
Most people don’t put themselves in the position to walk past every door in their neighbourhood. There are places where institutional paranoia and a lack of adequate gun control make this a sensible, pro-life, survival choice.
It’s a shame. A long, slow walk past all your neighbour’s doors gives you a real sense of the identity of a place. You might even feel more embedded in or connected to somewhere your job has dragged you to.
Or you might just feel as if someone has wrapped your legs in hot rubber bands and replaced your hip, knee and ankle joints with balls of fire.