Home CitroŽnŽt home

Site search powered by FreeFind
Do NOT include 'Citroen' in your search terms


A glorious era in advertising

The 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 today.

Step this way...

Room 1

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.

Room 2

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

Service included

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.

Room 4

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

Forward CitroŽn!

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.

Room 6

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.


Rťjane Bargiel

is curator 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 classics.

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 Alexandre Lacovleff.
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 be different.

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 CroisiŤre Noire.

© 2000 le Double Chevron/2013 CitroŽnŽt