What Emily in Paris got Wrong as Told by an Actual Marketer

Before I start, please note that some references might not make sense if you haven’t watched Emily in Paris on Netflix yet. For a better experience and to avoid spoilers, I would suggest a binging session ASAP!

I have really enjoyed Emily in Paris – the show has the right ingredients for a light and engaging watch. The city, the characters, the romances, the sex – it truly hits the right notes, despite the many faux-pas it made in representing the French. While watching the 10 episodes series, I couldn’t help but question Emily’s marketing role, and the many things she was able to get away with while working at an agency. As someone who had her fair share of agency life, I could truly say that my work life DID NOT look anything like Emily’s. Granted I’m a grouchier less confident version of Emily, but even colleagues with similar traits as the character in the show couldn’t pull off what she did. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy my time, but it certainly wasn’t as portrayed in the show. So let’s play the Life at an Agency: Expectations vs. Reality game!

Expectation: Emily seems to take long lunches and feels very comfortable walking out of the office at any time of the day. 

Reality: assuming that it wasn’t frowned upon to take long lunches or to just pick up and leave for the day, the gazillion things on my to-do list would have me nailed to my chair all day, skipping lunch altogether, or having a miserable meal at my desk. If I was lucky enough to have a little bit of time to have lunch outside of the office, it will definitely be interrupted by a call or a message asking for my immediate return because of some file that needs sending or some other emergency that is not really an emergency. If I wasn’t at my desk or in meetings for most of the day, leadership would go around asking questions and raising red flags to straighten the matter.

Expectation: Emily goes out to meet clients without running it by her boss first

Reality: at an agency, client meetings are not casual social meet-ups and cannot be done on a whim, especially if it’s to discuss strategy or marketing plans. Taking a client meeting will require looping in our boss, going over talking points and making sure we don’t make decisions without getting back to our team and discussing it. The thought of going over my boss to pitch an idea to the client without sign off is just…. Unimaginable! I love that Emily has so much confidence to go ahead and run with her ideas directly to the client, but realistically… this shan’t pass.

Expectation: Emily gives her opinion on a shoot

Reality: I don’t want to get caught dead changing the direction of a storyboard during the shoot. Without running it by the creative director at the agency? I can feel the scolding looks I will get, and the literal ban from set. There’s definitely no problem in bringing up your opinion when the storyboard is being discussed, suggest changes, or edits – even Emily’s suggestion of running a poll is very interesting, but never during the actual shoot day while undermining the creative director’s vision in front of the client. Costing time and money on a big production would definitely cost me my job. 

Expectation: Emily has hot clients with flirtatious vibes

Reality: clients are not potential lovers. I’m not sure if agencies for luxury brands exclusively sign on hot flirtatious clients, but I can assure that none of my interactions with clients has ever included the slightest flirting. Is it a French thing? Cause I won’t mind being whisked off to St-Tropez by the nephew of a world famous fashion designer, whom apparently I inspire or casually receiving lingerie from a client so that he can make a point in an argument.

Expectations: Emily’s digital strategy often involves just one post on her social page

Reality: No, one post at an event will NOT get you facetime with the CMO and ultimately a brand ambassador role. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but replacing “very” by “berry” in an Instagram story about a product is not breakthrough in today’s online ecosystem. No, posting 1 racy picture of a dress will not redefine your brand voice and make your brand “younger” – I can’t stress how much more of a strategy is needed to completely shift the consumer’s point of view on a brand. And no, a brand putting a bed in a public space will not guarantee user generated content. The number of times outdoor installations were pitched during my time at agencies made me very familiar in understanding consumer behavior vis a vis stunts like these. Besides the logistics of the matter, the permits and the hygiene of sitting in a bed exposed to the public, engaging the public and converting them into a purchase is such a lengthy sporadic cycle that often the return on investment is too low to proceed with something like that. At best, it’ll be a brand awareness effort depending on who are Emily’s followers and their relevance to the brand.

Expectation: Emily’s clients seem not to have a budget problem

Reality: budget is ALWAYS a problem!

Expectation: Emily, albeit annoyed, seems to tolerate her boss’s behavior,

Reality: please do not romanticize having a bad boss. In real life, having a bad boss has such a dramatic and heavy emotional toll on a person that no amount of cuteness, lightness or positivity can make it better. Emily is so driven by her ambition and her confidence that it seems so easy to navigate through the negativity, but long-term exposure to a bully has a true psychological deteriorative effect and can lead to depression and lower work performance. Her boss is a kick ass woman and I truly aspire to become so elegantly successful, but her status is no excuse for her toxic behavior and it is not easily manageable as Emily makes it look.

Despite diverging a little from reality, the show still reminded me of the good times I had working at agencies. The dynamic environment would always give me a rush and get me excited to get work done. I also would never trade in the camaraderie that I have developed with my colleagues, which made the hard days very tolerable and sometimes even enjoyable.

I wrap up this piece with a marketing thought starter – influencer marketing. Is it as important as the show is making it look? How would you integrate influencer marketing into your strategy? Leave your comments and let’s discuss!

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