Air France Made a Fancy Chewing Gum to Soothe Your Ears During Takeoff and Landing

A taste of French goods

Headshot of Angela Natividad

France is back in the air! And, fueled by fantasies about crème brûlée and macarons over a view of the Eiffel Tower, Air France has conceived a special treat: chewing gum.

Created by BETC Paris, the French lifestyle-inspired “Gomme à Macher” (literally just “chewing gum”) comes in two flavors: pistachio macaron and crème brûlée. They also serve a purpose—unblocking your ears during takeoff and landing, when air pressure dramatically varies, and often results in earaches.

“We looked at what could be perceived as pain points by the passengers, and we tried to come up with creative solutions that could enhance the quality of service offered by the airline company. Also, we wanted to bring to life our brand positioning ‘France Is in the Air,'” Tiphaine Du Plessis, Managing Director of BETC, tells AdFreak.

“This time, we decided to focus on the takeoff and landing moments of the flights, which can be moments of tension for some travelers. Many people suffer from pain in the ears as the cabin pressure varies and blocks passengers’ ears. When this phenomenon occurs, the simple fact of a chewing action is enough to balance this internal ear pressure and relieve the pain.”

Last week, published an article on the billion-dollar myth of the “French girl,” but Francophiles know that archetype is only one star in a wider constellation about the idealized French experience. A lifetime of dreams have been powered by accordion music, cheese, wine, Haussmannian architecture, understated style and that slow-moving terraceside life.

And, of course, macarons and crème brûlée.

It’s precisely these dreams that Air France is in the business of selling, with help from BETC, an agency that’s made a mark on global ad culture by promising one distinct product: the French touch. The pair launched “France Is in the Air” with a whimsical spot in 2015, as well as a safety video that was so stereotypically chic it damn near felt smarmy.

The chewing gum is a compelling addition to this heritage. Technically, it’s a serious product meant to punt French savoir-faire: Made in France with 100 percent natural ingredients, it comes in playful pastel packaging and really appeared at airports.

Of course, it’s also tasty (if only as enduring as a Juicy Fruit) and serves as a charming reminder of actual sweets in the Promised Land.

But the product—it’s chewing gum that tastes like dessert—also has a flash of well-meaning silliness that winks back at previous, sometimes overwrought campaigns to lend an impression of intentionality. Is it classy to chew macaron-flavored gum? More importantly, who cares? What value is there in being chic if you can’t also be playful?

“BETC has a history of conceiving products for its clients,” Du Plessis adds. “Back in 2013, the agency created the Smart Drop for Evian, an Amazon Dash type of fridge magnet to order same-day delivery of Evian bottles. We also created a bespoke pizza brand for the MCM TV network. We like to challenge ourselves and blur the lines between creating ads and designing products and services, especially when it comes to find new ways to engage the brand with its consumers.”

From July 6, the gum appeared in Air France lounges at Paris-Charles de Gaulle, as well as before takeoff for flights from Paris to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Mexico City. Think of it as a cutesy keepsake to top off your French experience. You can also find it at the Air France Shopping website, and via Colette, where its probably the cheapest thing there—a perfectly-reasonable €3.50 ($3.99).

Lastly, because these times, after all, are digital, the campaign also included a Snapchat lens. Here’s a brief glimpse of what that looked like.

Campaign: La Gomme à Mâcher
Brand: Air France
Ad Agency: BETC Paris
Chief Creative Officer: Remi Babinet
Executive Creative Directors: Ivan Beczkowski, Jasmine Loignon
Creative Directors: Marie-Eve Schoettl, David Soussan
Creatives: Chloe Perignon, Chrystel Jung
Art Director: Nathan Brunstein
Director: Flaminguettes
Production Company: RITA

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@luckthelady Angela Natividad is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak. She is also the author of Generation Creation and co-founder of Hurrah, an esports agency. She lives in Paris and when she isn't writing, she can be found picking food off your plate.