SENS DE LA VISTE
A glorious era in advertising
advertising museum in Paris is presenting one of the most astonishing
sagas of the 20th century: 80 years of advertising by CitroŽn.
Scheduled to run until 28 January 2001, the exhibition is an
opportunity to discover or rediscover several decades of clever and
inventive advertising, making up what is no doubt the most
extraordinary show ever seen to date in the short history of publicity.
Anybody who saw the Eiffel Tower sparkling with light during the
millennium celebrations will find it easy to imagine the thrill felt by
one million passers-by on 4 July 1925, when the tower suddenly lit up
with the name of CitroŽn. This comparison helps us to understand the
impact and daring of Andrť CitroŽn’s first advertising coups.
The founder of the double chevrons was already widely known for his
role in bringing about one of the main industrial revolutions of the
20th century: a volume produced car accessible to everybody. But he is
perhaps less well renowned as a pioneer of modern communication
techniques. The exhibition currently on show at the advertising museum
in Paris aims to remedy this.
Scheduled to run until 28 January 2001, it tells the remarkable tale
of CitroŽn advertising using photographic documents, posters, archive
films and advertising films organised by theme. But this event does not
simply open the doors to the past, no matter how glorious. It also
enlightens visitors with respect to CitroŽn's advertising communication
Step this way...
The first age of CitroŽn advertising
Room 1 tells the story of the "Andrť CitroŽn era‚” between 1919 and
1935. Entitled “oser et s’exposer" (to dare and to show), it
illustrates the founder’s strategy, as implemented by the well-known
trio, Pierre Louys, the Wallace agency and the printer Draeger. Their
tactics were simple: to organise special events occupying all possible
niches of communication and to invent new media.
Press advertising, for example, was used extensively by CitroŽn.
High-quality standardised publishing material (brochures, leaflets,
posters, signs, etc.) was also made available to the network. An idea
which, although less sensational than the Eiffel Tower coup, was
nevertheless an innovation at the time.
CitroŽn advertising takes to the road
Room 2 is dedicated to the Marque’s expeditions, and notably the
CroisiŤre Noire. Through the scientific papers written by the
specialists taking part in the missions, the films brought back, the
exhibitions and conferences organised, the name of CitroŽn was heard in
all segments of society. Andrť CitroŽn used these expeditions to
maximum effect. They provided the basis for dozens of publications.
Souvenirs were produced and sold.
Dealers were encouraged to use these promotional tools.
Room 3 displays the last concepts developed by Andrť CitroŽn up to
the takeover by Michelin, notably the reconstruction of the Javel plant
and the launch of the Traction Avant in 1934.
In 1927, he laid the foundations for what was to officially become "
CitroŽn Service" in 1951. CitroŽn made the customer the focus of
attention. Detailed procedures were put in place. A customer should be
Welcomed by a clerk in a white coat. He should be able to wait for his
car, if he so wishes, in a waiting room. Here, he may leaf through
technical publications, read about the Marque’s expeditions, or be
tempted to test drive a new model or buy a toy.
Innovation in technology and graphics
Room 4 looks at Claude Puech, the man in charge of the launch of the
DS in 1955. Puech considered advertising to be “cultural act”. He
introduced Robert Delpire to Pierre Bercot, chairman of CitroŽn. A
productive partnership that began with the “Double Chevron", first
published in May 1960.
Calling upon photographers, illustrators, painters and typographers,
Puech and Delpire produced brochures whose approach to product and
image combined technical rigour with eye-catching flamboyance. It was
at this time that Jacques Wolgensinger set up CitroŽn’s information and
public relations department.
Adverts aimed at children date back to the 1920s: here, life-sized toys.
Two painted metal DS.
Room 5 covers the period 1970-1990, when Jacques Sťguťla
high-lighted the qualities of imagination that were not developed by
the vehicles themselves. The head of RSCG called in poster designer
Savignac. His drawings of the “little man with the chevrons” would be
used for four years up to "The wild chevrons", the corporate film made
by Richard Raynal.
Now you can imagine....
The last illustrious period of CitroŽn history is on show in room 6.
This section looks at the arrival of Jean-Martin Folz, chairman of PSA
Peugeot CitroŽn, and Claude Satinet, managing director of the Marque.
By associating the name of Picasso with the name of CitroŽn, the Marque
is showing its founders talent for innovation in communications.
at the advertising museum and commissioner of the exhibition 'Sens de
la visite', which tells the story of 80 years of CitroŽn advertising.
Double Chevron: What made the advertising museum decide to organise an exhibition dedicated to CitroŽn?
Rťjane Bargiel: Because the saga of CitroŽn advertising
is exceptional in terms of its longevity and diversity as well as its
quality and originality. For collectors and advertising enthusiasts,
CitroŽn offers a fantastic wealth of documents, concepts and tales. For
the general public, CitroŽn advertising remains first and foremost
associated with the personality of Jacques Sťguťla and the golden age
of the 1980s. Everybody remembers the spectacular ads made at this time
and the advertising formulas such as the “wild chevrons". Jean-Paul
Goude's films with Grace Jones are viewed as classics in French
advertising, in the same way that “The Big Blue" or “Diva” are cinema
DC: This isn't the first time you've paid tribute to CitroŽn?
RB: The first exhibition took place in 1926. The museum of
decorative arts exhibited 673 ritual and domestic objects, with
photographs and drawings of the CroisiŤre Noire brought back by
The second event took place in 1965, when the museum of decorative
arts organised an exhibition entitled: “CitroŽn, graphic arts and
publicity". This event was put together by Robert Delpire, a key figure
in 1960s advertising. This is the third exhibition.
DC: Advertising has changed considerably. Do you regret the past at all?
RB: Robert Delpire foresaw a change in objectives and methods,
notably with respect to the decision-making circuit. He predicted that
the experimental, amateur style of advertising would disappear for good.
It's true that constraints have become so strict that you often lose
in originality what you gain in efficiency and impact. However, by
linking Picasso with a car, CitroŽn has proved that it still dares to
DC: But not everybody liked the idea...
RB: No, and that's so much the better. When CitroŽn comes up with
new ideas, everybody talks about it. It's the sort of thing that Andrť
CitroŽn might have done. He liked unusual associations. CitroŽn has
always had a talent for getting itself noticed in spheres that are not
necessarily related to the car.
DC: Which exhibit do you prefer?
RB: The large statue of a Mangbetu woman, displayed in the
introductory area, and which was first shown in the 1926 exhibition.
CitroŽn used it as a communications symbol during the CroisiŤre Noire.
It was a revelation for the public at the time. It even gave rise to a
new fashion trend among women wanting to wear the same style of hat.
This statue reminds me of the two “mutant” heads of Grace Jones, the
black artiste who featured in Jean-Paul Goude's films on the CX.
I also particularly like the original watercolours by Lacovleff, the
official painter of CitroŽn expeditions, which were loaned by the
daughter of Louis Audouin-Dubreuil. We have a number of extremely rare
posters, some of which I believe to be unique as regards their
excellent condition. For example, the poster for the film on the
|© 2000 le Double Chevron/2013 CitroŽnŽt