Renault Revives 'Papa and Nicole.' This Time with Real Dads and Daughters

These Nicoles aren't much like the original

In the '90s, car brand Renault advertised its Clio model with a series of ads that ran in the U.K. Centered around a fictional teenager, Nicole, and her dad, the first ad evoked a well-to-do father and daughter lounging in the Provençal sun. The father nods off, and the daughter joyrides with the Clio, taking us on a picturesque tour of the town, before settling breathlessly back into her chair.

Her father, fresh off his own clandestine jaunt, observes her upon her return. "Nicole…?" he says. "Papa?" she replies brightly.

Renault Clio | Nicole and Papa (1991)

It's a cute wink between an indulgent father and his daughter, even if, now, it might feel uncomfortably patrician.

These ads became an obsession for people, who followed Nicole's story throughout the '90s. The actress came to be more recognizable to Britons than the prime minister, and the question of who would be cast as her husband-to-be became a competitive matter between heartthrob stars. (Eventually, per The Drum, Publicis hired a comedy duo, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, to spoof the ending of The Graduate.)

Anyway, Renault and Publicis have brought Papa and Nicole back … in a very modern way. To promote their new Megane E-Tech 100% Electric vehicle, here's "Papa Nicole, the story lives on."

The five-minute ad follows three different British women driving Renault Méganes. One is a photographer from an immigrant background, one a singer in the LGBTQIA+ community, and one is a fashion content creator and disability activist. They talk about their dads, the good and (only comically) bad. And their dads talk about them—how loud they scream, how different they are from themselves. Photos and videos of the women in their lives, and with their fathers, appear between frames.

Seeing these people's stories evokes feelings about our own paternal relationships. Personally, I haven't seen my father in three years. He looks and lives a lot different from when we last spent time together. Like other late millennials, I've arrived at the age where I have to start thinking about being in right relation with what may well be the last act of my parents' lives.

The nod to the original "Papa and Nicole" is very slight, and you might miss it if you never watched the earlier campaign at all. The women pull up to their father's driveways. They're different kinds of women from that first, fictional Nicole—not so privileged, not joyriding. Their return to their fathers' arms happens in the open air.

"Dad!" they all say. No papas here.

"Nicole!" they all reply back.

We're three decades past the run of the original works. When the "Papa and Nicole" ads ran, they sold 300,000 Clios in seven years, spurring a boom in popularity for the name among newborn girls: 7,000 Nicoles were born in the U.K. between 1996 and 2000, according to the ONS.

In that sense, these Nicoles carry that legacy with them. But it's also nice to see Publicis and Renault recognize that times have changed, and with them, the kind of Nicole we might relate to.

"Papa Nicole, the story lives on" was directed by Toby Dye via RSA Films. Just as the original carefree Provençal Nicole has been replaced, so too the Clios of that time: the Mégane E-Tech aligns with current EU ambitions to stop selling gas-powered vehicles by the year 2035. As a tribute piece, it aspires to hit two different audiences at once: the 40- to 60-year-olds who remember the original "Papa and Nicole" works fondly, and the 20- to 39-year-olds who can relate to these Nicoles in ways they might not the old one.

"Bringing the nostalgic Papa Nicole ad into a modern dimension hits the nail on the head. We're adding a modern chapter into the much-loved story as we get to know real-life Papas and Nicoles," says Louise O'Sullivan, marketing director (U.K. and Ireland) at Renault. "From exploring the ever-adapting dynamic between fathers and daughters, to the fact that the campaign will run on social instead of TV: every aspect of this campaign is relevant right now in 2022."

The campaign will run online, and on display, print and out-of-home platforms through July.


CAMPAIGN TITLE: Papa, Nicole: The story lives on
CLIENT: Renault
CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Colin Byrne, Rob Butcher
CREATIVE TEAM: Colin Byrne, Rob Butcher
HEAD OF FILM: Sharon Joyce
PLANNER: Mike Waters and Joe Crust
ACCOUNT TEAM: Maggie Forrest
DOP: Jake Gabbay
PM: Katie Keith
EDITOR: Julian Eguiguren
PRODUCER: Ben Porter
CASTING: Rose Waite
AD: Ben Gill

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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