The images of beautiful beaches accompanied by humorous slogans were meant to tempt British tourists over to France during the London Olympics.
But yesterday the joke was on the French after it emerged that posters designed to advertise the delights of northern France and the Mediterranean actually show a beach in South Africa.
Tourism bosses in France spent more than ÂŁ500,000 on the campaign, which involved newspaper adverts and 23 posters plastered all over the London Underground for three weeks this month.
Unfortunately for them, however, the advertising agency inadvertently used an image of a beach in Cape Town â some 5,500 miles away from France â in two of the posters.
The error was spotted by fashion photographer Bradford Bird who lives in London but grew up in the Cape Town suburb of Llandudno whose beach features in the posters.
He said it was the distinctive rock outcrop in the background of one of the âFrench' beach pictures that alerted him to the mistake.
Mr Bird said: âI recognised the beach as soon as I saw it. I thought ââthat's a little bit cheeky'' and put a picture of the billboard up on my Facebook page.'
The offending poster features a family running along the sand and the words âSprint finish on the Northern France Coast' â one of what the French tourist board describes as âhumorous' Olympics-related slogans.
Named after the seaside town in North Wales, the South African Llandudno is one of Cape Town's most exclusive suburbs and is famed locally for its spectacular beach and impressive surf.
Although Mr Bird did not notice it at the time, the white sand beach and clear waters also appear to have been used from a different angle in a poster with the slogan âDiscus on the Mediterranean Coast'.
Having been alerted to the error, French tourism bosses replaced the âNorthern France' image on their website www.gotofrancenow.com.
By yesterday afternoon, however, the Mediterranean coast picture was still online. In both cases it was far too late to change the posters and newspaper advertisements.
The British advertising agency that created the advertisement has apologised for the error.
The Line Agency's managing director Steve Turton said the images were taken from a source of 3,000 stock photographs of French beaches.
An attempted sub-search of these 3,000 images, however, accidentally re-included images from around the world.