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Citroën: a century of innovation

Citroen DS

Iconic French car brand Citroën is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year – a rollercoaster of a century on the road.

Founded by André Citroën in 1919, the company has had its fair share of highs and lows (including more than one rescue in its lifetime), but few companies can claim to have been as innovative.

A new book ‘100 ans de Publicité Citroën’ (‘100 Years of Citroën Advertising’), written by French advertising legend Jacques Séguéla, tells the story of Citroën through its advertising.

100 Years of Citroen Advertising

Born in Paris in 1878, André Citroën wasn’t a designer or an engineer, but he was as a brilliant marketer and he developed a working environment in which gifted designers and engineers could flourish.

He was a pioneer of mass production in Europe, and his cars’ iconic designs and technical innovations helped Citroën become one of the world’s most famous marques.

He also devised an innovative way of communicating his vision and made history with his experimental advertising. Notable examples include an aeroplane writing the Citroën name across the Parisian sky in white smoke and illuminating the Eiffel Tower being illuminated with the Citroën name with 92ft high letters.

We’ve chosen a few of the the hundreds of adverts that have promoted the brand and its legendary cars over the years.

“This book is a biopic, the true novel of a brand above all others and a man above all men,” explains ‘100 Years of Citroën Advertising’ author Jacques Séguéla.

“André Citroën invented almost all forms of advertising: promotion, credit, PR, events, publicity cars, rallies, not to mention the first car ad, the first female ad and the first aerial advertising.

“The brand of my life, my brand for life has, in its own way, written the most beautiful industrial and advertising pages of the last century, those where France astonished Europe and the world with its thirst for progress and hunger for conquest.

“The adventure continues with the same passion of inventiveness and creativity that makes Citroën the favourite car brand of the French.”

Vintage Citroen C6 advert
Citroën C6

The big C6 seven-seater from 1928 was the first from Citroën to boast a six-cylinder engine and was a “a luxury car for the price of an ordinary one”. This epic ad sums it perfectly.

Citroen DS Advert
Citroën DS

The first use of a mass-produced modern disc brake was in 1955 on the revolutionary Citroën DS, nicknamed ‘The Goddess’. This advert for the DS from the late 1950s, which incorporates Citroën’s famous double-chevron logo, was just as clever.

Citroen Mehari classic advertCitroën Mehari

The first French production vehicle with a body created solely out of thermoformed plastic (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), the brightly-coloured Citroën Méhari debuted in 1968, chimed with the times and quickly became a cult leisure vehicle.

En Avant Citroen advert
En avant Citroën!

Translated as “Forward Citroen!” this advertising example from 1981 epitomised a confidence in the brand and its logo no other manufacturer would dare to go. No glossy photographs, just the genius of graphic artist Raymond Savignac.

Citroen XM - Prersidential handover 1995
Presidential opportunism

Citroëns were more often than not the car of choice for French Presidents, In 1995 the company capitalised on a news photo. On May 17 the whole of France watched the investiture of Jacques Chirac and the depature of Francois Mitterand – in a Citroen XM!

‘100 Years of Citroën Advertising’ is available on the Citroën lifestyle e-shop: www.lifestyle.citroen.com

About Gareth Herincx

Gareth is a versatile journalist, copywriter and digital editor who's worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online. After long stints at the BBC, GMTV and ITV, he now specialises in motoring.

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