The Montreal Market.

When it comes to what makes the industry in Montreal unique, the first answer is and was the most obvious: French language and culture. Not only obvious, but also important, as significant differences in cultural understanding have real repercussions for the market and the industry in Quebec.

Quebec is the only province, and only significant region in North America for that matter, with a predominantly French-speaking population (60+%). In fact, Montreal is second only to Paris, which is the largest French-speaking city in the world.

Montreal has a rich history, which has included the French v. English battle over the decades. Francophone culture started to gain significant political and economic traction with the Quiet Revolution of the 1960’s, which turned into a full independence movement by the late ‘60’s. Many English-speaking Quebecers left Montreal during this time, opting instead for more politically stable provinces. Bill 101 was passed in 1977, deeming French the official language of Quebec (and therefore Montreal), including government, business and culture. Politically, the battle waged on, with the merging and de-merging of the city’s municipalities.

Anecdotally at present, inter-linguistic relations are on the up-and-up, and for the French-speaking population and those English-speaking citizens who did not abandon the province, the reward of unity is nearly there. A melting pot and blend of so many cultures, beyond just the French and English distinction, leaves a lack of one specific Montreal identity, instead allowing people to take inspiration from any and everything around them.

With religious and political freedom came extreme expression of self, and rebellion against the repression of the past. Montreal is a creative city, where chic collides with bohemian and people are not afraid to express themselves. As they often do, the arts have created common ground and harmony among difference and have integrated cultures to intertwine inspiration.

Montreal is also not afraid to appreciate and enjoy life. As with much of the Northeastern part of North America, the snow-covered, chilly winter months limit the amount of time spent outside soaking up sunshine and thus, summer months bring conversations over glasses on patios, lounging and working in parks (Montreal’s Old Port provides free public wifi), bike rides through cobblestone streets (you can rent public bikes for $5 per day and ride to your heart’s content) and a general love for life and human connection.

The hub of the French Canadian entertainment, film and music industry, Montreal produces a considerable amount of content, exporting such famous names as Grammy award-winning band, Arcade Fire. A hub of culture and entertainment is also ripe ground for the advertising industry, a business that shapes, reacts to and affects the culture of any city or country. The ad industry in Montreal has found a balance in the language swing and the language conversation seems to be over. As it finds its footing among the settling shifts of an ever-less-present culture divide, advertising in Montreal has developed different facets.

Some shops cater only to Quebecois companies, clients and corporations. They exploit and market true French Canadian culture, strategy and creative to French Canadians. Cultural nuances such as the fact that most French Quebecers are not afraid to talk about money and live more liberal lives than their Anglo counterparts, who identified themselves in Toronto to be more sensitive and reserved. Proud-to-be-French-Canadian shops serve as resident experts and feet on the ground in Quebec to advise agencies outside of the province.

Other shops take a more integrated, nationalistic and international route, embracing the exportation of French Canadian culture outside of Quebec. Some of these agencies have sister offices in Toronto, Vancouver, elsewhere in Canada or abroad. They serve as a bridge to international markets, both sharing the uniquely Quebecois outward and absorbing external culture to represent back to the Montreal market.

Do you know the Montreal market? What is your take on its history, its present and the agency scene therein? Leave a comment, a link to a blog post on the subject, or chime in on Facebook and Twitter. I’d love to hear and share your thoughts with The Saturn Return Project™ community!

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