Citroën’s low-speed, no-official-driver’s license needed, eight horsepower electric city car, the Ami, may be one of my favorite new cars right now. It’s unashamedly French in their most esteemed engineering traditions, full of strange but clever decisions to achieve a specific, modest goal. It’s a weird and smart little machine, and it only makes sense that it should have ads that are weird and smart, too. As a result, Citroën seems to have rediscovered a car advertising lost art: not taking yourself so goddamn seriously.
I’ve actually lamented the loss of good self-deprecating ads here before, something once pioneered by Volkswagen with their Dolye Dane Bernbach ad campaign from the 1960s and 1970s, but Citroën knew how to play the game back in the day, too:
There’s something so refreshing and appealing about a carmaker not being all hyperbolic and reverent about their cars, especially since so much of what car advertising has become feels like this:
It’s a Jeep Compass. It’s only going to turn you into a legend if you bone a demigod in it and grow wings. I do like that old Morris Minor left out there in the Indian Desert, though.
I love that Citroën realizes that the people who might find their new Ami a useful, helpful, and worthy tool to get their fed-up, tired asses from point A to point B are not the sort of people who wake up at 5 a.m. every morning and make a pledge to the Universe that Today Will Be Triumphant or some other woo-woo bullshit.
As a result, we’re getting ads like this:
Translated, that says
“The Car of the Future not only doesn’t fly, it doesn’t have power steering, either.”
Or how about this one:
That one reads
“Surprisingly, we didn’t fire the designer.”
Gold! That’s absolutely within the tradition of those old DDB VW ads that just called the car ugly, but still made you want it.
There’s others that call out the novel/strange design choices, too:
“The worst is not that the doors are mounted backwards. It’s that we did it on purpose.”
That’s self-effacing, but it also forces you to think about why the doors are that way, and realize it’s actually a clever solution to getting in and out of tight places, as you can choose a way that works best.
Also impressive is how Citroën (well, their ad agency, Buzzman Paris) found a way to play to an environmental appeal without coming across as preachy:
That says “Impress your great-great-great grandchildren.” Similar is this one:
“Always zero wins in Formula 1. Always zero CO2 emissions.”
This one says
“Yes, it looks like a toaster, that’s why we sell it at Darty.”
If you’re an American like I am, you likely don’t know what the hell Darty is, so I looked it up: it’s a chain that sells appliances and electronics and that kind of thing. Sort of like a Best Buy here.
And, speaking of buying at Darty, you can get one of these Amis there for about 20 Euros a month, about $24 US a month, which is pretty amazing. That’s not that much more than the Premium level of a Netflix subscription. That’s for a car that does 30 mph and about 43 miles of range, which seems plenty usable in a dense city like Paris or any number of other similarly dense cities.
These are all fun, funny, and refreshing ads to see. Selling an 8 HP city car that looks like nothing people are used to is a challenge, and it would be nuts to try and sell it with the bravado and hyperbolic horse shit that usually sells cars.
So, thanks, Citroën, for having the guts to have a go at yourself. It’s very, very needed in the automotive world today.