PARIS — Signaling a shift in its fight against counterfeiting, French luxury goods trade association Comité Colbert has teamed up with UNESCO on a pilot campaign to promote creativity and safeguard cultural heritage.
The aim of the ads is ambitious: To sensitize young people, in particular, not only to the pillaging of museums and archeological sites in war zones, a tactic used by extremist group ISIS in Syria and Iraq to fund terrorist activities and undermine local populations, but also to the issue of counterfeiting.
The two organizations have produced a poster campaign, set to debut in French airports and 300 locations in Paris from July, featuring the hashtag #Committed to heritage and creativity.
“We wanted a new initiative that would put the problem of counterfeiting in its real context, which is the intellectual pillaging of creation,” Elisabeth Ponsolle des Portes, president and chief executive officer of Comité Colbert, said at a joint presentation on Tuesday attended by Irina Bokova, director general of UNESCO.
“Our idea was really to give an ethical and international dimension to this very positive message,” she said, adding that the campaign would unfold over five years. She hoped the poster, featuring an illustration by Serge Bloch, would be picked up by some of the United Nations cultural agency’s 195 member states in their respective languages.
Dior ceo Sidney Toledano, speaking in his capacity as president of Comité Colbert’s Public Authorities Commission, said the idea was to educate young people about cultural values, rather than telling them not to purchase fakes.
“Comité Colbert does everything it can to attract young people. Our problem is securing the workforce of tomorrow. It’s about re-explaining heritage and creativity on a global level,” he said. “If we highlight those concepts, I think there will naturally be a rejection of counterfeiting.”
Ponsolle noted that intellectual property is far from an abstract concept, citing studies that estimate it accounts for 26 percent of direct employment in Europe and 39 percent of the European Union’s gross domestic product.
Edouard Planche, program specialist at UNESCO’s Section for Cultural Heritage Protection Treaties, said the campaign had very real implications for people on the ground, such as members of the Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums in Syria.
“They are the ‘Monuments Men’ of today,” he said, referencing George Clooney’s movie about the team that fought to recover looted art during World War II. “They are on the ground. They are archeologists, experts, site keepers. Some have died, some are risking their lives, but they are in the field on a daily basis.”
Planche noted that for the first time, extremist groups are using social media to wage what he called a “media war” over the destruction of heritage sites.
“The protection of heritage and the fight against the illicit trade of cultural goods has become an issue of international security, because we know the pillaging of cultural goods finances international terrorism,” he noted.