France 98

  • Launched: 31st of May 2018
  • A coproduction L’Équipe & Upian

by Alexandre Brachet

During a career, there are projects that matter more than others. This project is part of them.

For more than 6 years, we have been working with L’Équipe on all their digital platforms. From design to producing content, we have built a trusting collaboration and with a commitment that allows us to tell you now this story. 

About 20 years ago, when Upian was just a small and messy office, but already on its way to producing content, another team brought France over the moon… a moon shaped like a soccer ball.

28 on departure, 22 on arrival, these boys wrote a page in the national narrative. The French team’s story that won the World Cup 1998, a country’s story.

When Jérome Cazadieu, Rémy Fière and Emmanuel Alix came to ask us to work with them on this exceptional Explore, we were well aware of what was at stake. We needed to create something extraordinary and new. It was also the opportunity to send a strong message: innovation in our field is not an option.

Our starting point? Putting the reader right at the heart of the history of the 98 French national team.

As an internet user, a reader, an audience member, I remember where I was, what I was doing, who I was with to celebrate when we won, and I am going to share these memories and relive these wonderful moments of joy where intimacy and community were one.

We are now twenty years later and we are willing to blend this commemoration with the modern web. Today, each of us is free to move at their own pace. On YouTube, young people are watching videos at double speed. On our phones, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat are taking space with stories. This format on the web needs to be utilized by journalists. 

It is an opportunity for us to offer the general public a format that we have been developing and promoting for years: a story where control over reading time is thought out from the outset; a story where it is obvious to call on contributions from Internet users; a story written and edited so the reader has complete freedom to consume it in his or her own way.

With the concept in place, we set to work. We are fortunate to have the pen of Rémy Fière. We know he’s going to take us on a well-crafted journey with a demanding, fast-paced and lively narrative. We also know the 22 players from the France 98 team will be asked to respond on video. So we moved fast, very fast: we contacted an illustrator, a musician, an animator and all the talents that make up the Upian team on a daily basis.

Thomas Deyriès assumed a role that suits him: director. He thought about the first mock ups, created a first story as a test, asked Jérôme (aka JG) to turn it into a video and checked the result. While he leads the project as creative director, I support him by insisting on risk-taking. This is a unique moment in our history, an incredible moment in the history of French sport. We’re going to play it to the hilt and produce something out of the ordinary.

Meanwhile, the technical team led by Emmanuel Durgoni and Nicolas Menet realised that the stories would have to be organized and that it would be essential to be able to edit the texts and manage the metadata on the pages. They were aware of the crucial need for flexibility in editing and insisted on creating a bespoke administration tool. Duly noted.

Then things really started going. We were joined by Julien Castanié and his first illustrations, then Julien Croyal, the knight of rotoscopy, and of course Arthur Laffargue, who gradually freed himself from his daily routine on Snapchat to join the editorial team.

The team continues to grow: Matthieu Laporte, Marion Lavedeau, Marie Leviel, Manon Louvard and Thomas Steffen for the graphics. But also Théo Boulenger, the invaluable man who created the music and sound effects. And there’s more to come. On the one hand, Romain Avalle joins the Manu and Nico team with Antoine Abbou, our apprentice. On the other, Loïc Kessler will be in charge of animation, while Soizic Pineau and Camille Lacharmoise will be helping out with production.

The reason I’m detailing these credits is because the human adventure that underpins this whole project is the foundation of everything. A team based between Paris and Los Angeles is going to give their all, with that extra bit of soul that can’t be ordered (those who know, know).

L’Équipe’s digital audience is colossal. This success is the result of a long and collective effort by all the editorial, technical, marketing and graphics teams who work on a daily basis. From print to online, from magazines to TV channels, from Snapchat to digital, the power of the brand is now reinforced by a single identity.

In March 2018, L’Équipe set a new all-time record with 18.1 million unique visitors to its digital media. Including 12.1 million on mobile.

So the programme we’ve designed is obviously designed first and foremost for mobile. France 98 – À jamais les premiers » can be accessed via the L’Équipe application or the mobile site, and is designed to be watched on a mobile phone.

Last but not least, it is essential to point out that if you watch the whole programme at normal speed, it will take you almost 50 minutes. If you watch it at fast speed, it will only take a few minutes. If you watch it episode by episode, you’ll see the emotion build like a series, even if you know the ending (spoiler: we won).

Tomorrow we will certainly see a transformation (partial, of course) in the general form of digital content. More and more readers are consulting and requesting this mix of text, images, sound and video, delivered in the form of a story.

This intuition is not new. The rhythm, the writing, the work of authors, illustrators, coders and animators, this is the basis of the web that we have been supporting since the beginning.

When the press meets graphics, illustration, code and multimedia, the quality is likely to be enhanced. There’s no doubt that this format will be used in journalism in the future, including social, economic and environmental journalism.

Nothing is simplified here, quite the contrary. We’re giving people a chance to understand a very big story in a way that’s open and designed for a wide audience.

This bet on the future is important.

Who in France today is capable of proposing such an ambitious programme? Not many. But what about tomorrow? I’m betting that this format will become widespread.

Innovation is not an option.