20 French Commercials Every Language Learner Should Watch
Commercials are usually something we try to avoid or skip past.
But when learning a new language, they can be really powerful tools.
They’re bite-sized stories with strong visual components, activating multiple parts of your brain.
They also use colloquial language common in everyday conversations and useful to add to your vocabulary.
In this post, you’ll get 20 French commercials that can entertain and teach you something about the language and culture.
- Food and Drink Commercials
- Commercials for Everyday Products
- Public Service Announcements
- Where to Find More French Ads
- Why Learn with French Commercials?
Food and Drink Commercials
If any feeling is universal, it’s our love of food. France in particular is deeply associated with la cuisine raffinée (sophisticated cuisine). Thus, it seems only logical to look at some food commercials in French.
1. Intermarché Supermarket — “L’amour” (Love)
This beautiful ad from Intermarché supermarket actually doesn’t feature any dialogue. Instead of language, it offers the perfect way to learn about culture: namely, the culture of food. In France, food is an essential element of culture, and this ad demonstrates that importance.
2. Intermarché Supermarket — “Tour de magie” (Magic trick)
This is another ad from the supermarket Intermarché found in France and other European countries. In it, a man performs a magic trick by disappearing a coin. The couple watching the trick is first impressed and then angry that they’ve lost their money.
This commercial was released to promote the range of 500 products that the supermarket chain offered for just 1€, in response to complaints that their prices were increasing.
3. Istara — P’tit Basque (Little Basque)
This brief but somewhat melodramatic French cheese commercial tells a fictionalized story about how the company’s trademark cheese was developed.
As the monologue is somewhat fast-paced, this commercial is probably a good choice for intermediate learners to practice their skills. The Basque Country—or pays Basque as you’ll hear it called in this commercial—is a region in the very southwest of France bordering Spain.
4. Le Raisin Rouge (The Red Grape)
Le raisin rouge is a French wine company. The premise of this commercial is the comparison between a couple gracefully dancing and the full-bodied nature of the wines. It features very basic vocabulary and is essentially all adjectives.
The effect is a tangible brand personality that has a sophisticated, artsy feel, complete with black-and-white cinematography and soft piano music in the background.
5. Wonderful Pistachios
Although this ad is for the popular American company Wonderful Pistachios, the commercial is geared towards French viewers. At a mere 15 seconds, it’s by far the shortest on the list. The duration and use of American terminology make this commercial simple and ideal for beginners.
The video features a cat playing the keyboard to crack une pistache (a pistachio). The whimsical premise along with awkward special effects make for an amusing commercial.
6. McDonald’s — “Venez comme vous êtes” (Come as you are)
This commercial rests on two brief conversations between a high school student and his boyfriend and then the student with his father. The marketing strategy centers on the closing phrase venez comme vous êtes (come as you are).
The content of the conversations is relatively simple, but the speaking is somewhat fast-paced and includes some French slang. Like with all of these commercials, you can easily watch it several times if you need to.
This adorable commercial for a universally loved cookie is perfect for beginner and intermediate learners.
The heartwarming ad features a little girl teaching her father the proper way to eat an Oreo. It’s a great way to learn how to give instructions and use the imperative mood.
8. ChocoSui’s — “Maurice, le poisson rouge” (Maurice, the goldfish)
This is a great commercial for intermediate students. It’s one of a series of ads where a little boy blames the goldfish, Maurice, for his poor behavior.
It’s quite visual and easy to understand, and it contains some useful French slang. Bouffer, for example, is the slang term for manger (to eat).
9. Café Grand’Mère — “Révélation” (Revelation)
In this simple yet heartwarming ad, a son goes to his mother’s house for afternoon coffee (a common French concept). She’s serving the Grand’Mère (or grand-mère — grandmother) brand, so the son uses this as a way to let her know she’s going to be a grandmother.
10. Herta — “C’est bon mais c’est chaud” (It’s good but it’s hot)
This ad offers an interesting demonstration of the linguistic rhythm in French. But it’s also a great way to look into what ads have become emblematic in French culture.
Like the “wazzaaaaaaap” clip that became part of the American lexicon in the early 2000s, “C’est bon mais c’est chaud” (“It’s good but it’s hot”) has become an oddly endearing catchphrase among the French.
Commercials for Everyday Products
Needless to say, as enjoyable as food can be, there exists a myriad of other products and services that are being marketed. In this section, you’ll find a few commercials covering a variety of industries.
11. Spotify — “Écouter ça change tout” (Listening changes everything)
This is a funny, light-hearted commercial for the digital music service Spotify. A middle-aged father and teacher listens to rap music as he goes about his day, bewildering those around him with his musical tastes. At the end, you see that he connects with his students through a shared interest in the music.
The commercial doesn’t contain a lot of dialogue, but it’s a good challenge to see if you can understand the rap lyrics. It might even inspire you to add some French rap music to your playlist.
This short Apple commercial dates to 1989 when factory jobs were extremely prevalent. In the video we witness the wealthy owner of the factory coaching his son on how to manage the business when he inherits it. The father portrays the workers as thoughtless machines at the mercy of their boss. The narrator then points out that there are, luckily, different ways to manage a business.
For dramatic effect, the father speaks relatively slowly, making this video easier to understand compared to many others and accessible to beginner and intermediate learners alike.
13. Fervex — “C’est ta mère” (It’s your mother)
This funny ad offers an interesting glimpse at how the French view American movies and culture. The commercial, which is advertising cough medicine, plays on the typical scary movie stunt where the serial killer calls the main character with a creepy voice. However, in this ad, the hoarse voice on the phone turns out to be the main character’s mother, who has a cold.
14. Zazoo Condoms — “Je veux les bonbons” (I want the candy)
This creative commercial is suitable for (adult) beginners learning French. It relies on a chute, a typical tool used for surprise endings in short stories, and humorously demonstrates why one might want to use the condoms they’re advertising.
This ad is the perfect way to explore the idea of French “second-degree” humor. French people are famous for their use of sarcasm to get a laugh out of someone, and this ad does just that (with relatively few words).
15. Hansaplast Condoms — “Ma maman m’a dit que je peux” (My mom said I could)
This is another funny condom commercial great for adult beginners. It features a young boy who does several crazy things, justifying his actions by saying, “Ma maman m’a dit que je peux” (“My mom said I could”). In the chute, you’ll see why he thinks his mom has been agreeing to his wild requests.
The ad features simple language, and the majority of the speaking is the boy repeating his excuse. It’s also a great way to delve into the natural rhythm of spoken French, specifically the way that the child elides que je peux into a single word, with the “e” sounds in que and je being reduced to schwas.
16. Bonjour Paris L’Ecole — “Ce qui peut te tuer, c’est parler anglais” (What can kill you is speaking English)
This witty ad for a French language school examines statistics of various countries. Upon discovering that nations where people consume large amounts of fat, drink a lot of wine and have sex often see lower heart attack rates than the U.S., the narrator concludes that “what can kill you is speaking English.”
As the narrator doesn’t speak overly quickly and a few key phrases are repeated throughout the video, this commercial is accessible to beginners and intermediate learners alike. (Hopefully, this one will also encourage you to continue your French studies and avoid too much English!)
Public Service Announcements
French PSAs (Public Service Announcements), or messages d’intérêt public (literally translated: messages of public interest), are similar to American ones. They draw attention to an important social issue and urge the audience to take action in some way.
By nature, they’re generally heavier than commercials for products or services, and they demonstrate the universal and pervasive nature of social issues such as hunger and domestic violence.
17. Club des petits déjeuners (Breakfast Club of Canada) PSA
This 30-second clip illustrates how hungry kids can’t focus on schoolwork. The PSA was released by a Canadian organization that seeks to provide nutritious breakfasts to school children so that they can learn and thrive.
As simple and poignant as the video is, it moves quickly and can be difficult to follow, making it ideal for intermediate learners. One strength of this PSA is that it gives exposure to the unique accent of Canadian French speakers.
18. Anti-smoking PSA
The premise of this PSA is a business meeting where executives brainstorm how to dispose of toxic waste. The vocabulary is a bit more complex, making this one most suitable for intermediate learners.
Not only will it expose you to business French, but it’s also worth watching for its creative twist in addressing the dangers of smoking and how big business manipulates the health risks for personal gain. And you can easily turn on English subtitles if you need them!
19. Domestic Violence PSA
This chilling PSA was released by the République Française (French Republic). Its purpose is to raise awareness of the prevalence of domestic violence (in French, la violence conjugale), especially towards women, and to publicize “3919” as a number to call for help.
Although the conversation begins simply, the language speeds up as the tension rises, making this one challenging for most beginners, but great for intermediate learners or even over-achieving beginners. Its conversational French and poignant message definitely make it worth watching.
20. Greenpeace’s Deforestation PSA
This animated PSA from Greenpeace was released in 2022 to raise awareness of deforestation. It aims to show the environmental impact of factory farming while capturing the attention of its audience. This one has a bit more language than some of the others, so it’s good for intermediate or advanced learners.
Where to Find More French Ads
French commercials give you opportunities to laugh, make cultural connections and pick up the language. If you’re a fan of this unique and engaging learning tool, here are some ways to continue the lesson:
- For more French commercials, check out this YouTube playlist.
- This Business Insider article compares French commercials with American ones. It offers a few cultural comparisons regarding economic values that are good to think about, whether you agree or not. The page also includes ten French commercials.
- Commercials are short, which can be a major advantage in using them to practice French. However, there’s no replacement for longer, more sustained opportunities to try your ear at real French. If you think you’re ready, check out YouTube channels with authentic French videos.
Why Learn with French Commercials?
Since airing a commercial can be quite expensive, they’re almost always very short. That means you can easily incorporate them into your regular French practice. Furthermore, you can watch one several times to see how your comprehension grows.
Commercials also offer a great way to discover French culture. You can learn about the French products and services that native speakers use every day, while PSAs allow you to see important social issues through the eyes of French citizens.
Finally, commercials are a prime example of authentic learning material. In other words, they were made for and are regularly viewed by native French speakers—so they’re great for immersing yourself in natural, real-world French.
Commercials can be a fun and effective way to sharpen your French.
So if you find yourself watching TV in French, don’t ignore those ad breaks!