Citroën's 100th anniversary campaign imagines the future of mobility

The campaign aims to follow in the footsteps of founder André Citroën, who was known as an innovative businessman and marketer.

Citroën’s centenary campaign embraces the trailblazing spirit of founder André Citroën as it rolls out a concept car that aims to revolutionise mobility in cities.

The French automaker and its agency Traction, which is part of BETC Group, have created more than 20 ads focused on the theme of "cool mobility" that will run throughout 2019. Against the backdrop of a global car sales slowdown and uncertainty about the industry’s future, Citroën is promoting its credentials as an innovative, accessible and family-orientated brand.

One of the new ads is a manifesto introducing the Ami One concept, which will be available for test drives at the Geneva Motor Show from 7 to 17 March. The upbeat film debunks ideas such as "Nobody wants a car any more" and "The car is the new city plague". In contrast, the Ami One is a small, low-speed electric vehicle that could be driven without a licence and serve as an alternative to shared bikes and cars.

"The manifesto says, hold on a minute, why as individuals should we not be able to have our freedom despite the fact that we want to save the planet? Given our past, why shouldn’t Citroën be the one to say, stop all of this – there is something we can do?" Linda Jackson, the company’s chief executive, said.

For the centenary campaign, Jackson tasked BETC with imagining how the automaker’s founder might celebrate its anniversary. André Citroën was "a visionary, extremely ahead of his time" – the Elon Musk of his day, Jackson said. He was also an innovative marketer, known for stunts such as lighting up the Eiffel Tower with his family name in 1925, which was later recorded in The Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest ad.

Because André Citroën wanted to "democratise the auto industry", the campaign is heavily focused on social media, Arnaud Belloni, director of marketing, communications and sport, said. The spots will run on TV but also be tailored in real time for social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn, with 25% of the marketing spend devoted to digital.

BETC created about 15 films over the course of one month to be used around the world. They promote various Citroën vehicles and feature stories about the daily lives of families and friends. Many of the company’s customers have children, so the campaign’s tone of voice is "family-led", Jackson said.

"Citroën is a brand that cares for people," Stéphane Xiberras, the president and chief creative officer of BETC Paris, added. "It’s not only about the technology, but also about how the technology can help people move in a better way."

Yet Citroën also wants to modernise its image and be seen as a "cool" brand, Belloni said. It will host events this year such as a stunt that replaces Parisians’ cars with Citroën vehicles. The agency has also made a film series called "Generation", launching this spring, that stars brand superfans from around the world.

This campaign comes after Citroën has reduced its marketing budget by 25% worldwide. Despite this cutback, the brand is resolved "to never sacrifice creativity", Belloni said: "As we have less money, we wanted to have more creativity".

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