Camille and the Zadists or how the anti-large projects have developed their very own transversal “communication”.
Have you ever heard of the « Designated development area » (Zones d’aménagement differé)? Well you know, the ZAD, keystones of the roaring urban planning and development of the 60’s and 70’s. They might be best known under their recently misused name: “area to defend” (zone à défendre). Actually, since the beginning of November, it almost became a registered trademark.
The “real” ZAD were created in 1962 as part of an anti-speculative scheme, in order to avoid sudden surge in prices of lands destined to public development projects. The development agreement incumbent body is thus granted pre-emptive rights on all sales in the designated area for 6 years.
Yet the activists mobilised against development projects – from the Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport to the Sivens’ dam, and the « Mille Vaches » (the thousand cows) farm – have merrily misused and made this nickname popular … turning it into a communication asset.
This hot and highly political « designated development area » or « area to defend » issue (depending on your perspective) took a dramatic turn with the death of Rémi Fraisse in Sivens, which acted as a catalyst for an open warfare between the anti-dam, self-proclaimed “zadists”, and the government. While the earlier cannot claim a definitive victory yet, that is, until a final decision about the project’s future has been made, they are at least clearly winning on the communication front.
Up to the Sivens tragedy, the large-scale mobilization of Notre-Dame-des-Landes was under the spotlight, following a rather typical media pattern: highly motivated opponents squatting and equipped with banners, and reporters speculating on the possible resignation of the ecologist ministers from the government, or on the impact this issue might have on Jean-Marc Ayrault’s popularity ratings, then Prime Minister …. and for quite some time, as one of the main supporters of the project when he was the mayor of Nantes.
The Sivens tragedy provided an opportunity for the activists to lay out a truly transversal communication strategy, both original and efficient. They made the name “ZAD” theirs, as the “umbrella brand” of their protests’: allowing them to challenge the Notre-Dame-des-Landes, as well as the “Mille vaches” or Sivens projects.
It is a raging fist coming up against “the absurdity of environmentally-unfriendly and nonsensical development policies” claim the activists. Entirely devoted to their branding strategy, the “zadists” spokespersons have decided they were all to be called “Camille” when speaking up in the media, to further prove they are all united against the same superior enemy … Foolish? On the contrary, we do think these are brilliant pieces of communications: each and every one of those isolated events are now lumped under the same banner (Camille and the zadists), all coming up in a universal crusade of the weak against the strong.
The zadists are not short on ideas, on how to capitalize on this clever communications piece and capture the media attention some more. On the model of this opponent to the Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport project (named René Leblanc, not Camille) who just filed the “ZAD” trademark to the INPI, in order to “prevent this very symbol of the fight for the respect of the environment to be exploited at all” as he explained.
So the circle comes back around. “ZAD” has become a communications label to convey political messages. As of now, the planners will also have to find better and more efficient means of communications in order to demonstrate the public utility of their projects to the public.