Citroen: feels like an iPod ad
Citroen: feels like an iPod ad
A view from Ben Kay, Chief executive, RKCR/Y&R

Citroen DS3: The French car brand is sending mixed messages with this Apple-esque execution

Marketing's unique weekly analysis of ad recall in association with TNS.

Dig under the skin of the Citroen brand and it's hard not to fall deeply and instantly in love. Here, in an automotive world of tediously efficient vanilla, is a brand with a rich history of sticking two fingers up to the establishment, be that political, commercial or cultural.

This was the brand that deliberately sabotaged the Third Reich by putting the notches on dipsticks in the wrong place, the brand that decided the world needed cars that floated on air, the brand that was sending its cars off on expeditions to Asia, America and Africa to prove their toughness way back in the 20s (proof, were it needed, that branded content is hardly a new concept).

The company's endline, 'Creative Technologie', is a heartfelt cry out to all those who believe that there's more to life than depreciation and miles per gallon, a welcome choice for the world's zaggers.

And, after a couple of decades of being dragged inexorably and tragically toward replicating its Germanic and Asiatic competitors' products, the model in this ad, the DS3, is a welcome return to the quirky, rebellious brand of old.

A gift of a brief for any agency, then. But it feels like the finished work doesn't quite live up to the promise, and I'd wager that's for one reason. Someone, somewhere, said: 'We need to be more like Apple.'

For Citroen, the parallels with Apple at a brand level are clear... in fact, in many ways, Citroen is more Apple than Apple itself. After all, it has been offering a creative alternative to the establishment for more than 90 years. Nonetheless, a brand with parallels with Apple does not have to equate to a brand that advertises like Apple.

The opportunity for Citroen is to step clear from the category and connect with people based on why it exists, not simply what it makes.

Instead, the ad feels a little like an iPod ad with a car in it. Lots of product, beautifully shot and an upbeat track with an in-joke for the more discerning.

The makers have even managed to optimise it for an international audience, cutting out any tricky language or cultural complications by stripping out, well, any language and culture.

The result is a perfectly decent ad for a car and a brand that you could argue deserves better.

Then comes the other worrying part, however. You see, when you look at a DS3 on the road, you will notice that the badge on the back isn't a Citroen logo, but a DS3 logo. And when you search on Citroen's site for new cars, you'll see that the DS line doesn't sit alongside the other models.

It feels like, far from being the vanguard of the brand's revival, the company almost wants to deliberately separate the DS range from the master-brand to avoid it being affected by recent history.

Cue tail wagging dog.

So, all in all, the ad's not bad, the brand architecture is suspect, and you can't help but feel a touch of irony when you hear the campaign endline: 'Escape the ordinary'.

Brand strategy verdict

This might work for ordinary car brands, but Citroen is far from ordinary.

6 out of 10

table headerWhich of the following TV commercials do you remember seeing recently?
Latest rank Mar-13 Brand Agency/TV buyer Recall
1 (-) Yorkshire Tea  BMB/Goodstuff 44
2= (-) Wrigley's Extra  Energy BBDO/Zenith Optimedia 43
2= (-) British Gas  CHI & Partners/Carat 43
4 (-) Marks & Spencer  Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe Y&R/Walker Media 40
5 (-) LoveFilm  Above + Beyond/M2M 39
6 (-) Macmillan  VCCP/PHD 38
7 (4) DFS  Krow/Mediacom 37
8= (5=) EE  Saatchi & Saatchi/MEC 31
8= (-) Currys/PC World  M&C Saatchi/Walker Media 31
10 (-) Canesten  JWT London/Mediacom 30
11 (-) Oral-B  Publicis/Starcom 29
12= (-) Harveys  Enter/Walker Media 28
12= (-)  Isobel/Maxus 28
12= (-) Foxy Bingo  Biscuit Agency/Concord 28
15 (-) Citroen DS3  H/OMD UK 27
16= (-) Cadbury  Fallon/PHD 26
16= (-) Kellogg's Special K  Leo Burnett/Carat 26
18 (-) Ford Kuga  Blue Hive + Ogilvy & Mather/Mindshare 25
19= (-) Tesco  TAG/Initiative 24
19= (3) Morrisons  DLKW Lowe/MEC 24

Adwatch research was conducted from 7-11 March 2013 by TNS as part of its twice-weekly OnLineBus omnibus among 1000 adults aged 16-64. For details of the survey, contact (020 7160 5550). Ads were compiled by Ebiquity (020 7650 9700) and Mediaedge:cia UK (020 7803 2000).