Tuesday, October 19, 2010

French Car Ads: Past and Present by Keven Contreras

Many car companies have come and gone throughout the decades in France and now only three major automobile manufacturers remain, Citroen, Peugeot and Renault. Citroen and Peugeot are owned by the same company, PSA, and together they are ranked sixth in the world in automobile production. Renault comes in at number eleven in the world rankings of automobile manufacturers. These companies have all been around for a long time with Citroen being the youngest at 91 years. They have all developed unique marketing strategies to sell their products. Each company has its own identity. This case study will analyze how each company has changed how they portray themselves through television media by comparing a commercial from the past to one from the present day.

Citroen was founded in 1919 and gets its name from its founder, a technician named Andre Citroen. It is the youngest of the three companies and this fact is reflected in its marketing campaigns. All of the advertisements preach creativity and looking towards the future. They also try to pull at the rebellious nature of the youth audience by promoting the philosophy of living free. In the vintage ad from 1980, a young couple driving a Citroen 2CV Charleston drive recklessly through a picturesque beach. Through this ad, Citroen is trying to project an image of youthful romance and exuberance to consumers. The car carves out the words “amour libre” in the sand of the beach. The aim is to have people who view this ad associate the Charleston to the words “free love” and hopefully encourage them to purchase the car. The direction of the modern ads for Citroen models is completely different than that of the 1980 ad. The first modern ad is simply an excerpt from a John Lennon interview where he acknowledges the past is good for inspiration, but it is better to look to the future and try something new that hasn’t been done before. Then the ad cuts to the word “ANTI-RETRO” and shows computer generated footage of the new car, the DS3. The ad is a little controversial due to the use of a beloved music icon to sell cars and the fact that the voice was dubbed. It still had its desired effect of connecting the Citroen brand with the ideas of innovation, creativity and genius. Citroen’s new strategy is to promote a media identity of a company that is on the cutting edge, looking to the future, full of energy and their target audience is the younger generation. Gone are the ideas of “free love” and romanticism.
In both samples of Peugeot commercials, the media identity that is portrayed is that of tradition and reliability.

Peugeot got its start producing a wide variety of industrial tools in 1810. The first Peugeot car wasn’t produced until 1891. The company has been around for almost 200 years and is deeply proud of its tradition. In the vintage commercial dating back to 1977, a Peugeot model is shown driving on windy roads at high speeds with a voiceover listing all the accomplishments Peugeot has achieved. The ad gives off a sense of tradition and pride that is supposed to make the viewer feel comfortable in investing money to buy a new car. If the company has been around for so long, then they must be doing something right. The modern sample ad is a 3D animation that shows the evolution of Peugeot products from music box and bicycles to the newest model cars. This ad is meant to give the company a sense of credibility by showing how far they’ve come in the past 200 years. Peugeot’s marketing strategy is to use the media, in this case television, to show how long they’ve been around and how much they have accomplished to instill confidence in their products.

The mood of the Renault commercials is decidedly more light-hearted when compared to the other two companies. Renault uses media to give the image that their cars are fun to drive and practical. In the first example from 1960, the commercial aims to show how fun to drive the Renault Dauphine is by utilizing cheerful music and comparing it to roller skating. The driver always has a smile on his face as he parallel parks and shows off the city and country horns. The narrator boasts about the 40 mpg and how it’s “handy as roller skates and twice the fun!” This theme is continued in the commercial from the 80’s for the Renault Encore which asks, “Are you what you drive?” It depicts the stereotypical guy from the 80’s so that the viewer can relate to him. The modern ad almost ignores the car altogether. Instead it opts to use humor to sell the product. The model is only mentioned at the end, so the commercial is only meant to get the attention of the viewer and tie the humor and relaxed attitude to the Renault brand name.

The three major French automobile manufacturers utilize media, specifically television ads, as a tool to sell their products to consumers. Through media, they are able to project a favorable image of their products by tying them to celebrities, humor or tradition. When viewing French car advertisements, it is important to realize where they are coming from and who is producing them. Their purpose is to sell you a product first and to entertain you second. Each company uses its own unique marketing strategy to accomplish this goal.

1 comment:

  1. Great article on the French car industry. Grace Jones used to be the protagonist of several Citroën commercials... (directed by Jean-paul Goude).

    French Course Angel