By now you have all undoubtedly seen the Claudia Schiffer adverts
which are being run Europe wide for the Xsara. In Britain, there was a
TV campaign in which Claudia Schiffer apparently strips naked before
driving off in a Xsara Coupť. The strapline (or should that be
"stripline") is The Only Thing To Be Seen In This Summer.
of you may have read articles in the press which state that this sort
of advertising sets the female driver's cause back by some thirty years
- to an era when semi or totally naked women were used to sell cars.
For our younger readers I would hasten to add that the this does not
mean that the salesperson at your local used car lot was a curvaceous
and naked woman, rather that motor manufacturers felt the need to
display their wares at motor shows, augmented by young ladies in a
state of deshabillage. Now it may be that most cars were so dire in
styling terms that the manufacturers felt there was a need for some
sort of distraction.
the politically correct nineties, women are not sex objects, they are
consumers. Doubtless, some people find the Schiffer ads deeply
offensive and they will therefore not contemplate purchasing a Xsara.
Other people will presumably be so gullible that they will actually
believe that a naked blonde comes as standard with the car and they
will go out and buy one (or more!) on this basis. Where does this leave
the majority? One thing is for sure; all publicity is good publicity.
And this particular ad seems to have generated a disproportionately
large number of column inches in the media.
ten years ago, CitroŽn UK ran another politically incorrect advertising
campaign for the BX GTi - it showed the tail of a GTi and the words
"What's behind the new CitroŽn BX GTi? BMW 320i, Vauxhall Astra GTE, VW
Golf GTi.." and a few other hot hatches whose names I can no longer
recall. There were howls of anguish from the AA, RAC and RoSPA saying
that this was irresponsible and contravened the spirit, if not the
letter of the agreement to exclude performance figures from
advertisements. Even though the ad was withdrawn, the damage had been
done - or should I say, the message that this hot BX was faster than
most of its competition got across loud and clear. As something of a
non sequitur, Toyota's "The car in front is a Toyota" springs to mind
every time I encounter an asthmatic Starlet being driven hesitantly
down a narrow country lane at an unsteady 45 mph, braking for each
slight bend and maintaining this speed through 30 mph restricted
question no-one seems able to answer is, "What is CitroŽn UK's target
market?" It can't be confined to the gullible chap mentioned above -
there can?t be more than half a dozen in the entire country.
Politically incorrect lesbians? Viagra users? What image is CitroŽn UK
trying to create for the Xsara Coupť? Are they trying to woo the
archetypal Essex Man - ex XR3i owner, gold medallion, etc., etc.?
maybe, given that men are supposed to think about sex four times an
hour (or whatever the statistic might be), CitroŽn hope that they will
associate curvaceous, leggy, naked blonde with sex and therefore think
about the Xsara four times an hour. It's just as likely that every time
a man sees a Xsara (about once a fortnight!) he will think about sex...
I'm sorry, the whole thing is just too confusing.
is no stranger to using women in their ads. The 5CV was advertised back
in the Twenties with pictures of women behind the wheel and this theme
was employed on many subsequent models - presumably the intention was,
somewhat patronisingly, to infer that the controls were sufficiently
light and the cars sufficiently manoeuvrable to allow the little lady
to drive it without too many problems.
Lollobrigida was used in the DS launch (although she kept her clothes
on) and pictures of Brigitte Bardot were also employed later.
the fifties and sixties women were kept away from the steering wheel
however. Perusing old advertising pictures shows the woman either in
the passenger seat or draped seductively over the paintwork - to the
extent that a 1961 publicity shot of the Ami 6 has a combination of
woman and foliage almost totally obscuring the car (see above regarding
distracting the punter from the styling).
insistence on keeping the woman out of the driving seat was taken to
extremes in a British brochure for the DS which showed an outline
drawing of a DS with photos of a seated nuclear family pasted into the
drawing. There was no steering wheel in front of the male person in the
right hand front seat. This self same illustration originated in and
was used in France. Of course we had a mirror image of the French
picture where the male person was in the front left seat.
motoring back then being a mainly male preserve (Barbara Cartland
excepted), both CitroŽn Cars Limited and SA Andrť CitroŽn pitched the
Bijou and Ami 6 respectively at women - or rather at their husbands who
would be the ones dipping into their wallets - ideal for the shopping
trip or taking the children to school.
years ago, Ford, the then masters of auto-clinicing, invited women to
come up with a wish list for a car and built a number of "female
features" into an Escort show car. These included a built-in shopping
trolley, a handbag grip, a large make up mirror, etc. I remember that
Christina, my wife, was quite infuriated by what she considered to be a
patronising exercise. She made the point that for a car to appeal to a
woman the only criteria she could think of that might be applicable
would be seating and controls designed for use by people who are
smaller and weaker than the average male. In many a two car family, he
drives the big, four door automatic car with power steering while she
makes do with a small three door hatchback without power steering - and
size notwithstanding, a big car with PAS is much easier to manoeuvre
than a small one without. And then the men say women are no good at
parking. CitroŽn, along with many other manufacturers has addressed
itself to this by introducing PAS in some Saxo models.
return to the Xsara, I understand that even the dealers are mystified
by the Schiffer campaign. One dealer to whom I speak regularly told me
he has sold three Xsara Coupťs - one to a 79 year old (Viagra user?)
male, one to a "thirty something" female heterosexual and one to a
"fifty something" young grandmother. Presumably Essex Man (who I now
understand is known as "Mondeo Man") doesn't find the Xsara
sufficiently sexy in appearance to fulfill its function as a Viagra
substitute, Claudia Schiffer notwithstanding.
next? The Saxo replacement called Sexo? Which leads nicely on to a
question that a Dutch friend asked me by e-mail. "What name do you
think CitroŽn will use for the XM replacement?" I came up with: