99 francs

I read another of Beigbeder’s books, after Love lasts three years, this time 99 francs.

In the same sarcastic, sometimes funny style, this time we are put in the world of advertising and money. Last time , the author criticized marriage and love, this time, it’s a different subject, and the arguments are much better put.

We are shown the life of an ad creator, Octave, who works for a big company, and his solely task is to create the perfect commercial for a product, such that everyone’s bank accounts are filled. We get a glimpse of the industry, how it’s seen from the inside: to brainwash people, get their money, manipulate them into believing they want different products. The book is also a big warning for everyone, that the big companies are money driven and will do anything to get their products into your basket.

Because Octave had a success before, he now can do whatever he wants and gets plenty of money from his company. He can afford everything he likes, and starts to live a depraved life, separating from his girlfriend, who is pregnant with him, and only lives by the day with all the pleasures he can find: cocaine, prostitutes, vacations, drink, smoke.

He is put in the situation of having a new clip for a new product, and almost completely messes it up. This brings him into his boss’ attention, who expects more from him. Once pressure settles in, he starts to behave pretty erratic and tries to find solutions, one weirder than the previous. He goes with the team to film the clip for the new product, convincing his company to hire his prostitute friend for starring the video.

The absurd of the situations are both funny and ridiculous: ads companies are being blamed for everything in the world, and the people who run them. The people involved in the creation of the ads, including the characters, are on the last step of humanity, full of misogyny, disrespect, arrogance. They accuse and blame everyone for the consumerist society, for the current pension funds, they even kill an old lady for the fact that she owns shares in a retirement fund.

Octave receives what he deserves, getting jailed for murder complicity. His boss tries to escape the pressure and the situation with the company and fakes his death. His old girlfriend fakes also her death to be with his former boss. His prostitute love abandons him for a rich man who can provide her with all her needs.

Octave realizes he is alone, somehow a broken genius, but full of mistakes, bad approach, and regrets.

The book presents the ad world in a way that perhaps many of us did not know about, and it’s a good read and a good introduction to a 21st century motive, the consumerist society, capital market, and the results of the actions of the people in these new situations.