Advertising: And Now, a Word for Cheese

When it comes to advertising, France is an underdeveloped country. It spends about a third of what Britain or Germany do on ads and less than a twentieth as much as the U.S.'s $17 billion yearly. Always afraid of having something put over on him, the Frenchman tends to agree with the late poet Paul Valery: "Advertising is one of the great evils of our time. It insults our eyes, falsifies all description, spoils landscapes, corrupts all quality and all criticism."

Charles de Gaulle does not agree. Intent on stimulating the French economy, he overrode bitter opposition, notably from the press,...