Are These French Chocolate Bars to Die For?

Their gorgeous wrappers sure are!

For Le Chocolat des Français ("The Chocolate of the French"), TBWA\Paris created a deceptively simple print campaign titled "Too Beautiful to Be Opened."

Le Chocolat is best known for its elaborate packaging, bright and ever changing. It's provided a canvas for many talented illustrators, which makes it catnip for sectors seeking new talent.

In keeping with that tradition, "Too Beautiful to Be Opened" features rich imagery that bleeds past any imaginable border. Each depicts a different scenario where someone has died, having exhausted all options except for their Le Chocolat des Français bar.

The insight: This is the only chocolate too beautiful to open.

Yeah, when your personal apocalypse arrives, you probably do want to protect whatever vestige of beauty remains. But maybe it's OK to just peel the wrapper off gently? You can have your chocolate and eat it too.

The graphics paint a bigger picture than initially meets the eye, and each ad contains two pieces of art: the illo itself, and the featured chocolate bar.

"The Island," designed by Tim McDonagh, shows the remains of a pirate. The details are telling; maybe this person was less of a pirate than some buccaneer wannabe. Sure, they've got a jaunty hat, notches on a stone, playing cards. But there's also a pair of cracked nerdy eyeglasses, some sort of city guide, and, sinking in the background, a leisure speedboat—the kind dads buy for vacations they never take. Near the skeleton sits a massive tome on rental property investing.

Who was this person? We feel like we know them: Someone whose ambitions and fantasies were way bigger than their capacity or experience.

Meanwhile, the neatly preserved chocolate bar features a crocodile swinging from the Eiffel Tower, King Kong style. Both the croc and this dead island guy are strangers in strange lands. Rob Hodgson designed the packaging.

"The Plane" by Sylvain Escallon shows a crash survivor juxtaposed against packaging of cheerful can-can dancers (created by designer Hubert Poirot-Bourdain).

In "The Grocery," illustrator Ionomycin offers a zombie apocalypse, contrasted with Aurore Carric's coquettish, carefree Queen of Hearts. Her dual hands take mirroring selfies while, in the store, zombies stain the window with blood. Thankfully, whoever's on the other side of that glass is already dead.

"The Mars Base," also by Escallon, paints a picture of exploratory desperation, hope dried out like space rations. The packaging, by Joel Burden, depicts a man's back covered in sailor tattoos: A fantasy of travel as color-saturated adventure, not the dull, inhospitable expanse of an alien landscape.

It's not often that we get to appreciate such vibrant and complex graphic takes in advertising anymore, which makes this campaign distinctly pleasing. Like fine chocolate melting in your mouth, these images generate whole worlds in your mind. They're the savory equivalent of watercolors bleeding through paper.

Also, it's worth noting the time-honored relationship between chocolate and death. It's said the Aztecs used a cacao mixture to drug and stupefy sacrificial victims. "The cacao pod was a metaphor for the heart torn out in sacrifice," writes Dale Pendell in PharmakoDynamis. "Yollotl-eztli," a poetic term for chocolate in the Aztec language Nahuatl, means "heart, blood."

When the Spanish encountered cacao in the region, it became critical to the Transatlantic slave trade, extending chocolate's scope of pleasure and pain across the world. Slavery remains part of chocolate's story today.

So TBWA\Paris’s memento mori approach works on many levels, intentional or otherwise. Chocolate has always, as far as we know, possessed a legacy that combines delight with mortality. Those who jones for anything, including chocolate, may be the first to admit that sweetness and oblivion are never far apart.


Advertiser: Le Chocolat des Français
Client: Paul-Henri Masson, Matthieu Escande 
Agency: TBWA\Paris 
Head of Account: Chloé Loison 
Chief Creative officers: Benjamin Marchal, Faustin Claverie 
Copywriter: David Philip 
Art Director: Olivier Mularski 
Production: \Else 
Art Buyer: Elise Kubler   
3D Lead: Younes Chekouh   

The Island: Tim McDonagh (Packaging illustration by Rob Hodgson)   
The Plane: Sylvain Escallon (Packaging illustration by Hubert Poirot-Bourdain)
The Grocery: Ionomycin (Packaging Illustration by Aurore Carric)   
The Mars Base: Sylvain Escallon (Packaging Illustration by Joel Burden)  

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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