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(June 18, 2001) PARIS -- Advertisers are seeking to cash in on the popularity of the French Big Brother clone Loft Story, focusing advertising ideas on the program and using characters kicked off the reality TV show to promote everything from soft drinks to insurance.

Pepsi France has scored the biggest coup to date, rolling out an amusing full-page press ad from lead agency CLM/ BBDO, Paris, starring David, the first candidate to voluntarily leave the loft apartment where competitors are cloistered and filmed around-the-clock.

The ad, which shows David lying on the floor of a typical apartment surrounded by a six-pack of empty Pepsi cans, is simply titled: "Here's why I left the loft."

Insurance company Mutuelles du Mans Assurances took a more traditional approach in a Loft Story-themed ad created in-house and directed by famed French director Patrice Leconte. The 30-second TV spot follows Mutuelles du Mans' longstanding tradition of focusing its ads on real people working out authentic insurance dilemmas.

The only difference, in this case, is that the four young adults discussing apartment insurance in Mr. Leconte's ad are former Loft Story contestants Aziz, Kenza, Delphine and Steevy.

Other advertisers have capitalized on Loft Story without paying the reportedly sky-high fees charged by former contestants, under contract and represented by production house Endemol France, which produces the program, now among France's most popular.

Nissan created a fake conversation between two Loft Story contestants for a recent radio ad. Telecom operator Cegetel is promoting its new rates with the slogan "You'd have to be locked up in a loft to miss this."

And Vivendi-Universal-backed cinema reservation service and Internet site AlloCine parodies Loft Story in a new ad by comic Jean Lafesse featuring 11 rats filmed around-the-clock in a cage bearing a strong resemblance to the program's TV set.

Industry sources say other spots starring Loft Story competitors will follow as the game show nears its scheduled early-July conclusion. -- Lawrence J. Speer

Copyright June 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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