It seems like we are most interested in how others do it. How other do their job, I mean. If you come to think about it, some of the most successful TV shows are about doctors, crime investigators, lawyers, people in advertising and even criminals doing their jobs. So, there’s no wonder Frédéric Beigbeder’s 99 Francs (14,99 euro, £9.99 and so on, depending on translation) is such a big hit. But that’s not the only reason.
As usual, I must admit I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by 99 francs. Mainly because I don’t find anything original in creating yet another piece on what a certain profession is all about and how it’s way more than meets the eye. Plus, protesting against advertising almost seems like a trend nowadays. But Beigbeder’s book is more than that. And that’s what makes it a novel and not just an over-sized article on what a monster advertising is.
First of all, it’s really well written. And although it focuses on the scams and perversions that working in an advertising agency brings along, Beigbeder’s 99 Francs is indeed a novel, because it follows a story. It’s not a confession about day to day work and campaigns. It follows one campaign from its birth to its peak, while focusing on how this effects the lives of everyone involved in its production.
The characters you initially meet as workers in the agency are humanized as the story goes on. And that’s one of the greatest parts about 99 Francs, I think. That Beigbeder doesn’t only focus on his character, or his character as just a copywriter. He focuses on all the characters in his book, closely observing their traits, both as professionals, and people. Beigbeder’s characters evolve during the novel. They’re not just typologies. They are real people working for/with an advertising agency.
And there’s also the commercial scripts connecting one chapter to another that make this book original. How 99 Francs mixes pure realism with fiction. What starts like a confession on how it is to work in an advertising agency goes on through all sorts of topics like love, death, morality and exactly just how much money can buy.
Filled with twists and turns, Frédéric Beigbeder’s 99 Francs is a book about the dark secrets behind working in an advertising agency. About the money you make and how all this eventually gets you in a high state of degradation. About drug abuse, perverted minds and narrow minded clients. But it also brings up some ideas and events that will keep you asking yourself days after finishing this book: just how much of it was real, and how much just pure fiction?