The popular yet controversial Netflix show, Emily in Paris, launched its second season earlier this month. Criticism of the show and its main character mocks the stereotypical American tendency to not bother to learn the language of the country you travel to and assume that everywhere you go, English will be spoken from the get go.  

In response, leading language app Duolingo uses this cristised embodiment as an example of what not to do. The new campaign, by BETC, piggybacks on the programme, encouraging viewers to avoid the character’s bad example, and instead take some French lessons using Duolingo – even if, as one Emily admits, the owl is a little pushy. That way, says the ad, at least you’ll understand the terrible things French people are saying about you.

The campaign launched to coincide with the season premiere, and for 48 hours from when the first new episode became available offered viewers named Emily a month of free Duolingo Plus – presumably to tap into any lingering feelings of shame viewers had while watching the character blunder through the language.

From a marketing perspective, Duolingo’s approach is a clever example of how to jump on a cultural wave while it’s high and hot. As BETC creative director David Martin Angelus points out, “It’s always more entertaining when brands interact with culture instead of trying just to sell you their product.”

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