French Bill Gates Says Giving is the Way of the Future

Twenty years ago as an enthusiastic entrepreneur,  Alexandre Mars, confidently predicted the success of the Internet and the mobile telephone. Today, as a middle-aged philanthropist (having profited himself from his predictions), he is forecasting that corporate giving is the next big thing.

Mars spoke to the AAPA on Friday May 18 at a breakfast gathering at Strategies & Corp in Paris.

He now spends most of his time and all of his profits on the Epic Foundation, the non-profit he started to scale up a portfolio of international NGOs in countries such as Africa and India in such areas as healthcare, preventing violence against women, and preserving the environment. No one escapes his reach – individuals, families, companies, corporations - when it comes to raising money for Epic...

"Giving has to be easy and painless," Mars says. "You can do something as small as donating the odd-cents on your pay stub every week to pledging shares of your company."

He's convinced that investors, employees and the general public will be looking at more than corporate financial pictures when making choices in the future. Corporate social activities will count, too. "People want to know how a company is engaged, he says. And for employees, it’s not about whether you have an office with a view. It's what you and the company you work for are doing for the world."

-Shellie Karabell


Le Monde boss Jérôme Fenoglio tells AAPA how his paper has managed to thrive in the current grim media landscape

Plans for an English edition of Le Monde, combating fake news, and how the leading French daily is - finally - doing rather nicely in a changed and ever-changing media landscape: these and many other topics were covered when Le Monde editor Jérôme Fenoglio hosted the AAPA.
The event was held on March 27 at the newspaper's premises in the 13th arrondissement, where the imposing building's grand entrance hall has been shut for security reasons since the attack on Charlie Hebdo in early 2015 (access is by side doors).
Mr Fenoglio leads a team of 450 journalists who together produce one of the world’s great daily newspapers. He joined the paper in 1991, and worked in a variety of positions there before being appointed editor in 2015.
He was also questioned by AAPA members on  media ownership and state subsidies to the press, the prospects for “legacy” newspapers in a digital world, and his take on the brave new world that Macron is bent on building in France.

‘Sociologist of emotions’ Eva Illouz on #MeToo and French versus ‘Anglo-Saxon’ sexual mores

The US-educated Franco-Israeli sociologist Eva Illouz spoke to the Anglo-American Press Association for two hours on February 21st at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris, where she teaches.

Illouz is a leading expert in the study of feminism and male-female relationships. She explained how the #MeToo movement sparked by accusations against film producer Harvey Weinstein is unique, describing it as “the reverberating light of a star that exploded in the 1960s,” that is to say, the feminist movement.

Illouz does not think #MeToo marks the end of sexual harassment, but that “men are going to think about the future consequences of their actions, which is something they did not do before.”

French sexual mores are less strict than those in Anglo-Saxon countries, in part because the Catholic aristocrats’ practice of remaining in marriage while having lovers “trickled down,” and because of a tradition of libertinage that is absent in the US.

French women tend to see their own sexual attractiveness as a source of power, for historical reasons, Illouz said. Since the court of Louis XIV, French women have used sexuality as a means of gaining power. And French women drew up the code of gallantry that dictated to men how they should seduce women.

Asked whether US President Donald Trump behaves like a French aristocrat, Illouz said that Trump’s relations with women were “really about the crude exchange of money for sex and beauty.”

Illouz also teaches at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She has lectured at prestigious universities around the world, including Oxford, Princeton and Yale. She appears regularly in publications such as Ha’aretz and Le Monde newspapers. In Germany, where her work is particularly well known, Die Zeit newspaper called Illouz one of the twelve people most likely to “shape the thought of tomorrow.”

-Lara Marlowe



Dear Members,

A short note to wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year (and belatedly posting this message on our website a tad later than it was sent out by email).
As you will all likely know by now, members elected me president of the association at the annual general meeting in December.
Thank you again for your confidence in me, and in the new Secretary General Cathy Nolan as well as the new committee line-up, which features some new faces alongside the veteran officers.
And thank you again to the outgoing leadership for their hard work over the past year. If I have done as well as they did by this time next year, I will regard my term in office as a success.
The committee and I will do our best to provide you with a varied range of guests and a lively set of social events, including of course the increasingly popular Happy Hour on the last Friday of every month, over the next 12 months.
The AAPA year kicked off with a flurry of guests - Mediapart's Edwy Plenel on January 9, CGT leader Philippe Martinez on January 11, Xavier Niel on January 24, and Benjamin Griveaux on February 12.
We look forward to seeing you at the many other events that are in the pipeline for the coming months.
Please also consider joining the AAPA Facebook group. It's a closed group that only AAPA members can join, so what you post there is seen only by members.

Bonne année 2018

Rory Mulholland

Benjamin Griveaux provides insider’s view of the Macron administration

Brexit, Germany, European parliamentary elections, the economy, Islam in France, and Corsican nationalism were among the many topics government spokesman and cabinet member Benjamin Griveaux discussed with the AAPA at a meeting on February 12.
Griveaux was spokesman for Emmanuel Macron’s election campaign and over lunch with 28 members of the Association, he recounted the foundation of Macron’s En marche! movement.
He said the president’s most salient characteristic is that “he never considers anything is acquis” - permanently acquired. “He’s not satisfied with the status quo. If you tell him that something is impossible, he says it isn’t.”
As a candidate, Macron organised a country-wide grande marche to determine what the French people wanted from the future.
“If I had to summarise it in one sentence, people told us they were prevented, by glass ceilings, by obstacles, by barriers,” Griveaux said. “We no longer had a republic of progress, of meritocracy, of fulfilment through work.”
Griveaux said that “reintroducing the notion of risk in French political life” was “the most disruptive thing President Macron accomplished.”
US President Donald Trump has invited Macron for a state visit to Washington in late April. Trump said in January he might keep the US in the Paris climate accord because of his warm relationship with Macron.
Griveaux said the two leaders will certainly discuss the climate accord and multilateralism – in particular in the Middle East – when Macron goes to Washington. “They will probably talk about the status of Jerusalem”.
Pressed on the nature of the relationship between the US and French leaders, Griveaux said: “I don’t think he’s buddies with Trump. When you’re a head of state, it’s not about feelings.”

-Lara Marlowe

Macron is no revolutionary but has given France a much-need makeover, says telecom tycoon Xavier Niel

President Emmanuel Macron has not revolutionised France but he has given the country a much-needed image makeover, telecoms billionaire Xavier Niel told the AAPA during a meeting on January 24.

Niel met with the association at Station F, a huge start-up incubator housed in a former railway depot near the Seine river which Macron inaugurated a month after coming to power last year. Station F's manager Roxanne Varza was also present.

Speaking on the day that Macron took to the stage in Davos declaring "France is back", Niel said: "France has not changed.

"What really changed is the fact of having a young, dynamic president, who is not from any political party. He has given France a pro-startup, pro-entrepreneur image abroad that we did not really have before."

Station F, which has taken in 1,000 start-ups, is a symbol of the "start-up nation" that Macron wants France to become.

Niel, who like Macron is something of an outlier in his field, made a fortune by producing France's first combo phone-TV-internet service.

He said Macron's reduction of taxes on capital gains and dividends have made France more attractive for investors, making it easier for start-ups to secure funding.

Adding to France's lure are US President Donald Trump anti-immigration policies, Britain's decision to leave the European Union and the struggles of Angela Merkel to form a coalition.

"England maybe does not appear very stable under Theresa May, Germany doesn't maybe seem much fun with a leader who is starting to get on in years, and the United States under Donald Trump doesn't seem very welcoming to strangers," said Niel. "In the midst of all that, we're doing quite nicely."

Varza said one quarter of Station F's start-ups were foreign, with the US and Britain the countries most represented among non-French companies.

Niel said he was confident France would soon overtake Britain to become Europe's technology capital.

He did not see France's crusade to get US digital giants such as Facebook and Google to pay more taxes as a deterrent.

Niel predicted that the threat of legislation forcing companies to pay taxes in the EU country where they create value -- rather than countries with low tax rates -- would convince the companies to pay more locally.

-Clare Byrne

CGT union leader Martinez vows to keep up the fight against Macron reforms

Philippe Martinez, the leader of the hardline CGT union, conceded during his January 11 meeting with the AAPA that he had failed to prevent President Macron’s labour law reform.  But he vowed to continue fighting tooth and nail to prevent France becoming more like Britain - in his eyes a land of zero-hours contracts, diminishing workers’ rights, and official contempt for the unemployed.

Asked if he thought that Mr Macron was hoping to emulate Margaret Thatcher in her epic battle with Britain’s unions in the 1980s, Mr Martinez replied: "His aim is to eliminate the unions.... He takes his inspiration from that model (Thatcher's model)... His is a policy of repression of unions." But he recognised that the CGT, faced with falling membership, will have to ‘modernise a little, given that the world of work has changed” with the advent of Uber type firms and the digital economy.

-Rory Mulholland


Mediapart shows independent news is possible and even profitable, says Edwy Plenel

The investigative online newspaper Mediapart enters its 11th year with a growing paid readership, a healthy balance sheet, and its twin pillars of independence and diversity fully intact, co-founder and publishing editor Edwy Plenel told the AAPA on January 9.

When Mediapart was launched 10 years ago on March 16, 2008, virtually no-one - apart from the founders and the 25 staff- believed a paying online news service could survive. In those days, the received wisdom was that news on internet had to be free.

They were wrong. Mediapart’s net profit rose to about 2.5 million euros last year from 1.9 million euros in 2016, its profit margin is higher than that of The New York Times, and subscribers now stand at some 140,000—having approached 150,000 during the French presidential election campaign last year.

Plenel’s editorial policy is selection. Whether scoops, analyses or a new perspective, stories have to represent value-added to those seen elsewhere. Insistence on diversity, which clashes with the prevalent single-identity principle, is another element « at the heart of our success. » The « affaire des affaires », which still has to be revealed in full, is Libyan funding for Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential election campaign in 2007, Plenel said. This will depend on how far the justice system will take the case, he added.

He recognized that Mediapart over-reacted in its scrap with Charlie Hebdo over Islam. « It is out of the question » for two independent newspapers « to be at war », especially when one has « paid (for its independence) with blood. » Plenel also regretted the silence from other media when former Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Mediapart should be « left out of the debate. »

The site carries no advertising, has no financial backers, no debt and since 2010 has received no subsidies from either the French government or Google, unlike other French media. It now has a staff of about 80, but will soon have a new editorial director, as present incumbent and co-founder François Bonnet will stand down this year. He said at the beginning that a decade would be his limit. The staff have until March to endorse, or not, Plenel’s candidate to succeed him.

« We have to hand over to a new generation to build the rest of the adventure, » Plenel said.

His advice for any other news start-ups is to have enough cash to pay decent salaries for the first three years. This helped Mediapart to break even for the first time after only two and a half years, and Plenel to finish paying off his personal loan to the bank last December 31.

To mark its 10th anniversary, Mediapart will hold a two-day event on March 16-17 at the 104 cultural centre in the 19th arrondissement of Paris. The event will begin with an international conference on « The Right to Know » and follow with films, debates and exhibitions on the 17th.

For more information about our 90 minutes with Plenel, we will flag stories written by members who were there.

-Barbara Casassus

-Photos: Thomas Haley


Machines Aren’t Our Friends, Media Moguls Tell AAPA

In this new industrial age, machines are going after white collar jobs...brain power jobs. In the words of Hilary Clinton, "Machines are not our friends." That thought was echoed by Fred Raillard & Farid Mokart at a breakfast gathering for the AAPA in the Paris headquarters of their media company FF Creative Community on December 12. “Regulations are the only thing that will save us,” Fred added, referring to the need to steady the pace of the rapidly changing tech environment.

As their comms director, Jalila Levesque, told us, Fred Raillard and Farid Mokart are a duo of multi-awarded advertising creatives, professional soulmates, entrepreneurs, and angel investors. They've made an outstanding international career in the ad industry in Paris, London and San Francisco. In 2007 they founded FF, an independent creative boutique network based in Los Angeles, New York, Shanghai and Paris. This creative boutique network is specialized in strategic brand platforms, social media content, tech, and creativity.

F&F see the relationship between customers and companies changing: "Customers are actually buying the company and its reputation," says Fred. "They want transparency. CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) dominates their communications space. Social media changed everything - companies cannot advertise by buying space in social media; they have to deserve to be there."

To this end, F&F showed us several TV commercials they had made for clients: those for HP emphasized not selling printers and equipment, but the company's push for diversity and overcoming prejudice in hiring practices.  A campaign for Louis XIII Cognac - whose brand is based on heritage and the century it takes to create the beverage - was based around a film which would not be shown for 100 years, starring quirky American actor John Malkovitch. The campaign included a "non-opening" in Hollywood and a ceremony locking the film away in a vault to be opened in 100 years. Press coverage was enormous.

"The Red Bull community is all about courage, action, a community of crazy people doing crazy things, so in this space they can sell anything," they said, as an example of today’s company-customer community.  Farid emphasized that most brands don't have a community vision because they are too focused on money. "HP understood that their product - technology - is a means, not a meaning, so they were able to align a creative sense of belonging going beyond just buying a product," he added

Journalists should be using social media to create their own community around their stories. "Embrace a dialogue," said Fred, "rather than a monologue. Start your story with a few lines to engage readers with the story." Farid pointed out that Instagram is a good format for luxury goods, reliant on visuals; TV works for basic consumer goods, and Twitter for retail and engaging dialogue. "And think about using video," they both said. "Even when you're doing an interview, take out your smartphone and film at least part of it."

FF is an international creative community of 400+ people from 25+ nationalities. The group has produced campaigns for 100+ brands like Air France, Audemars Piguet, Audi, Coca-Cola, Diesel, Giorgio Armani, Google, Guerlain, HP, Lacoste, Louis XIII, Martini, Orangina, Porsche, Saint Laurent, Schweppes, Société Générale, Tao Bao, Tmall, Van Cleef & Arpels, Vivo, YouK and, Wrangler. Under its founding principles of ideas, emotions and passion, FF has won 800+ creative and effectiveness awards, and 25 agency honors.

-Shellie Karabell



Diplomat Briefs AAPA on Franco-American Relations

One year after the election of Donald Trump to the White House, relations between France and the United States remain “extremely good”, and are underpinned by military cooperation between the two countries, a senior French diplomat told the AAPA on Nov. 17.

“The relationship between France and the U.S. has never been so intense in military terms,” the official told the group of nearly 40 AAPA members at a meeting once again generously hosted in the auditorium of Bloomberg News.

France and the U.S. are fighting together on many fronts, notably in Africa and the Middle East, and France is by far the “best and most reliable ally” of the U.S. among European countries, the diplomat said, speaking on background.

This is especially true because of Britain’s lack of involvement on the military front, and Germany is still reluctant to engage itself militarily, he went on.

The personal chemistry between French President Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump is “actually quite good” according to the official, boosted by Macron’s invitation for Trump to attend the Bastille Day celebrations in mid-July. The two leaders, who were elected on “populist” platforms, have had several phone conversations, but there’s no indication that these calls will have political consequences, he said.

The diplomat discussed the Trump Administration’s efforts to modify the Iran nuclear deal,  its “antipathy” towards Iran and its unorthodox diplomacy with Saudi Arabia. He also commented on the looming threat of U.S. trade protectionism and its unintended consequences that could backfire on America’s own interests.

On North Korea, he said he’s convinced that President Trump, being the “ultimate pragmatist” wouldn’t balk at negotiating with the Koreans on reducing their nuclear ambitions.

And he said he’s not overly worried by the unilateral decision by the U.S. not to uphold the Paris climate accord, as most Americans in big urban centers feel favor it and there’s a huge market for renewable energy in the U.S.

-David Pearson