“Give your passion free rein – have an affair,” says the billboard advertisement for French website Victoria Milan. Nothing surprising there, given the slogan is promoting a dating website set up to facilitate extra-marital affairs.
Next to it, however, with her skirt blowing upwards suggestively, stands a smiling woman with an unmistakeable resemblance to Ségolène Royal – former partner of French President François Hollande, and defeated Socialist candidate for the office in 2007.
Posing in front of a billowing French flag, the image appears to be a clear allusion to a widely-mocked photoshoot by Royal which appeared in the Le Parisien magazine in October.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the former Socialist leader hasn’t taken kindly to the association between her image and the promotion of adultery on the billboard, which has appeared across Paris.
“I find the use of my likeness or my name for financial ends unacceptable,” she told French daily Le Figaro.
“It’s a violation of the law…and I’ve taken steps to demand that they withdraw the campaign,” she added.
Royal, 60, was in a domestic partnership with Hollande for almost 30 years, raising four children together, before a somewhat acrimonious split in 2007, after she had been defeated by Nicolas Sarkozy in her bid to become France’s first female president.
The company behind the controversial ad campaign, however, has so far not yielded to Royal’s demand to pull the use of her image – instead praising her for her “courage”.
“Ségolène Royal is a modern and avant-garde person who encourages others people and public personas to be courageous,” Aishah Vassallo, from parent company Digisecmedia told Le Figaro.
“We think the same way [as her] – that is, [we want] to liberate people, encourage them to realise their passions, and make their lives vibrant again,” he added.
“The free woman that Ségolène Royal is, was the best person to embody our vision.”
This isn’t the first time that major French political figures have been used to promote adultery. In October 2012, Ashley Madison, a similar website for extra-marital affairs, caused a stir with a billboard campaign designed to launch the site in France.
The faces of French presidents François Mitterand, Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande appeared with fake lipstick superimposed on them.
The ad’s tagline was: “What do they all have in common? They should have thought of Ashley Madison,” implying that their widely-reported affairs could have stayed secret with the use of the website.