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100 Years of Citroen Advertising – Top 10 Picks

Car advertising has for the most part been an integral and fun part of the car industry and Citroen has been one car manufacturer that has time and again come up with innovative and exciting ways of advertising. Here are 10 of their best efforts over the years.

2018 – Advertainment A First

The modern generation has been all about innovation and invention and Citroen did that in the year 2018 by coming up with ‘Advertainment’. We all hate it when our favourite program is interrupted by an advertisement but there are those rare advertisements that can actually be quite entertaining as well.

The first step in doing that is by choosing the right length of the advertisement. Generally, 30 seconds is the standard duration of ads but at least 60 seconds are needed to make something that is informative and cinematic and still somehow just over the top enough to be a typical Citroen fare.

2016 – Grip Control

The more advanced cars have become, the more difficult it has become to convey new features in a manner that is easy to understand while also appearing as attractive as possible.

People should be wooed by the USP of the new car without appearing too outlandish or overpromising on anything. This was perfectly demonstrated in 2016 when Citroen came out with grip control on their C4 and they used surfing as the perfect allegory for it.

Surfing is extremely fun in a setting that should not be fun as there is very little control unless you are good at it. Grip control offers a similar level of control on slippery surfaces and thus allows you to enjoy driving on such surfaces with minimum peril.

2011 – Assisted Safety

2011 saw yet another masterclass in advertising. The subject here was a bit iffy, to say the least – assisted safety. To really convey the need for such a system, one had to talk about the perils of driving without making it appear disturbing. Also, the important point to drive home here was how most causes of danger come from the least expected sources.

Jaws was the movie that inspired this ad where a man survives the obvious threat of a shark and gets to the beach only to be knocked out by a golf ball out of nowhere. This ad was short and concise but very aptly told its viewers why assisted safety was not just another gimmick but vital to safety.

2009 – C3 – Car For The People

There is a fine line between appearing affordable and appearing cheap and Citroen managed to put forth the idea that the C3 was a car for the people in the classiest manner possible without the slightest inkling of appearing like a utility car for those who cannot shell massive sums of money on their cars.

The message here was simple – that you do not always have to break the bank to get a really good car. This point would have been rendered moot had the ad been an over the top cinematic affair. Instead, it stays simple yet classy just like the car it advertises.

2006- The Quintessential Face of James Bond

A thoroughbred car has to be advertised just right. You need to show how fun and full of life it is without making it look like something meant for someone going through a mid-life crisis. It had to be cool without trying too hard and that is what Citroen achieved in 2006.

By using Sean Connery, the quintessential face of James Bond, and by having him age backwards as he kept driving, this ad sent out the message perfectly that age is just a number and all you need is a great car and the right attitude towards life to feel young again.

1988 – The President of France an Aircraft Carrier and a Submarine

The 80s were all about flash and flamboyance and Citroen wasn’t going to be left behind in appearing as over the top as possible. Even the craziness of the 80s didn’t allow for an easy path to the making of such a crazy ad. While the ad itself is breathtaking, what is even more amazing is the story behind its making.

Involving the president of France and an aircraft carrier and a submarine with French navy acting as the stand-in crew that made this outlandish vision a reality, this was typical 80s pageantry at its unapologetic best. This ad is even more groundbreaking considering everything was achieved through practical effects long before the advent of CGI.

1985 – Ingenuity

Any press is good press and this ad proves that. The mid-80s were a sensitive time as far as racism was concerned and the use of someone of African descent as the centrepiece of this ad coupled with the insane speed number of 220 km/h did create a lot of negative media buzz.

While this was not the kind of publicity that Citroen was looking for, it certainly helped their cause immensely which was to sell a car that had been in production for a decade by that point. The irony is that there was nothing racist about this ad and it proved how adverse situations can be used for your advantage with just a little bit of ingenuity.


1968 – Anti-Conformist

The 60s were all about being anti-conformist and anti-authoritarian to the hilt and the Mehari was the perfect embodiment of this thought philosophy. It was bold and ‘in your face’ and the ad needed to convey the same sense.

This ad had to be equally up to the task as there was a major shift happening in the car industry where cars were no longer seen as something to merely fulfil a task and more as a way of having fun. The car industry reinvented itself with this car and the ad was equally loud and befitting the times.

It taught an important lesson that relevance can only be achieved if you are tuned to the times and are ready to adapt to the whims and fancies of your customer base.

1962 – Andre Martin

Still-photography while being elegant and classy has its shortcomings when it comes to conveying things such as speed and acceleration – the bread and butter of any sporty car. This advertisement from the early 60s used the clever skills of famed photographer Andre Martin to speak a thousand words through imagery.

The car in this ad is not featured as prominently as it would in most photographs and it uses this elusive look to create a sense of wonder and the desire to know more about it while perfectly conveying that it is as exciting as a car could be. These ads are the perfect example of less is more.

1961 – The Dynamic Nature of a Car

Prior to these set of ads, cars were always depicted in an impersonal sort of way. Framed in a wide shot from a distance, the cars in most ads always felt disconnected. These ads bought them up and close while also using techniques such as motion-blur to evoke a sensation of the dynamic nature of a car.

These ads also marked an important shift from a conservative depiction of cars to something worth flaunting. Something you desired without being shameful about it. The interesting use of light and angles would highlight all the intricate details of a car and would set a trend that is seen in advertising even today.

Take a if you want more information on the book.

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