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This Kids' Clothing Ad Might Be the Most Whimsical Depiction of Child Labor Ever


To support its new signature, "For Serious Kids," children's clothing company Petit Bateau has launched "The Mini Factory." This marks its first brand film since its charming child sailor ad of 2010, and depicts what can only described as a cross between a child labor factory and the ultimate playroom.

In the ad, by Paris agency BETC, a dog slips into the doggy door of an abandoned building, filled with colorful machines that remind us of that time OK Go built a Rube Goldberg. Except there's no rhyme or reason to how a single boy—the only person in the building—uses them. At his whim, he gathers yarn and splashes chocolate on shirts. Elsewhere, he shoves a cupcake into his mouth before using it as fuel for a cupcake cannon.

It isn't always clear whether he's making the clothes or gauging how they'll fare in a food fight, but he is indeed a kid, and he does indeed look serious about his job.

In an AdFreak interview, creative director Jasmine Loignon and art director Damien Bellon go into more detail about the ad's creation. They're also careful to clarify that the vast majority of Petit Bateau products are still made in France—so this child labor depiction is more fantasy than reality.

"Since Petit Bateau was founded in Troyes in 1893, the French village where 80 percent of its clothes are still produced, the company has prided itself on the quality of the products," the pair say. "They wanted to communicate this, and we found a way of doing so through the tiny quality controller who is the star of the film."

The brief was to make an international film that would bring the brand to life, they continue. "In France, Petit Bateau has always been about kid's freedom and creativity, known to make clothes for real kids to play in."

As for how BETC arrived at the concept, "We looked at the product and thought, Petit Bateau's clothes are made for kids who like serious fun and action, so let's celebrate that!" they exclaim. "We also got inspired by other ads and artists, from the Skoda Cake ad"—which explains all the confectionary delights—"to the work of Swiss artist Jean Tinguely."

British 1970s series Here Comes the Double Deckers, which is something like The Boxcar Children, also played an inspirational role, as did Herbie Hancock's cult '80s track "Rockit," re-recorded here by Feadz. 

"We've had a lot of positive returns on the film, from people of all ages," Loignon and Bellon say. "We like to think that's because it celebrates the freedom and magic that is childhood."

The ad is approaching 3 million YouTube views. "What was really lovely was last week when we shared it with the 600 people working in the Petit Bateau factory in Troyes. It was so rewarding and heart-warming to see their positive reactions," the creatives say.

"The shoot was intense, as we only had three days and a lot of details to fit into that timing, but we had great fun working with the director Patrick Daughters." 

Shooting also afforded time for the creatives to explore the factory space and props with childlike curiosity.

"We basically had seven large tables backstage full of nonsense pieces of toys where we would just go and grab funny bits to customize the machines. We actually felt a bit like kids playing!" they say. "However, an army of ingenious and incredibly hardworking set designers from Prague, led by Pietr Kunc, did most of the setting. And as the shoot was set in a real old factory, we spent our lunch breaks walking around looking at old radiators and rusty cars we found to feed the scenes. That was serious fun."

The behind-the-scenes video appears below. No children were harmed—nor was tetanus contracted—in the making of this film.

Brand: Petit Bateau
Communication Director: Stéphane Wargnier
External Relations and Image Director: Sandrine Couturier
In Charge of Advertising and Visual Creation: Paulienne Luzurier
Agency: BETC
Vice-President of BETC: Muriel Fagnoni
Account Director: Béatrice Verdier
Account Executive: Marion Gondeau
Creative Director/Founding President of BETC: Rémi Babinet
Creative Director: Jasmine Loignon
Art Director: Damien Bellon
Copywriter: Gabrielle Attia
Traffic: Marine Point
TV Producer/VP BETC, Head of BETC TV Prod and BETC Pop: Fabrice Brovelli
TV Production Assistant: Marine Monbeig
Music Creative Director: Christophe Caurret
"Rockit" rerecorded by Feadz (Bill O Laswell; Michael James Beinhorn; Herbie Hancock)
Editions: Atal Music Limited admin by Passport Songs Music
Bridge of Sighs Music : Hancock Music Company
Production Company: 75
Sound Production: GUM Green United Music
Director: Patrick Daughters
First Broadcast: November 8
Media Plan: TV (FR); Cinema (FR); Web
Media Agencies: Arena (digital); Vizeum (TV & cinema)
Available Formats: 30 sec and 60 sec 

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