By on February 10, 2011

Sure, Internet video is mostly about dental-fetish porn (particularly the very stimulating “spit sink” subgenre), but when the novocaine wears off and the last vinyl-clad hygienist has put aside her last stainless-steel scraper, you’re ready to explore the other great thing about Internet video… old television ads for the Citroën AX. The AX had quite a run, being built for model years 1986 through 2000 (counting the Proton-built version, the Tiara), and— who knows?— its tooling may yet be brought back into action in some out-of-the-way corner of the world.

Since assembling this collection of Citroën ads a couple years back, I’ve associated the AX with this early French-market ad showing a woman using the Great Wall of China as an exclusive highway for her AX. She catches some serious air, then stops short when a couple of ancient Long March veterans express their revolutionary approval. Down with the Four Olds!

Continuing the “revolutionary Asian locale” theme, Citroën then headed to Tibet, where an AX shows its off-road prowess on the way to a visit with a holy man. No doubt the Chinese government wasn’t so happy about this one, but Citroën sales in China didn’t amount to much in the late 1980s.

As the AX matured and a GT model came out, French-market advertisers decided they’d head over to New York City— like China, a place not known for street-driven AXs— and show off the car’s ability to get through madhouse traffic. In fact, the AX GT can squeeze through traffic even faster than a super-hip bike messenger with a willingness to ride down stairways and over the roofs of gridlocked cars.

In Spain, potential AX buyers must have focus-grouped as being fascinated by the American Southwest, because we’ve got a Harley-riding thug stalking a beautiful, AX-driving young woman from a desert greasy spoon to a railroad crossing. I won’t give away the surprise ending, which apparently is meant to show that the AX is practical as well as sexy, but it sure looks like the start of a made-for-TV serial-killer drama to me.

Citroën UK’s marketers decided to go with cuteness for this 1992 advert; a cartoon cupid’s arrows can’t catch the nimble AX and melt the cold, cold heart of the protagonist’s female companion. Thwarted! But wait! The AX itself gets the job done, and the camera fades to black as the couple prepares to make with the bouncy-bouncy on the road shoulder. Yes, the AX makes a man a real bull on the springs, if I may rip off a Bukowski-ism; it’s the Frenchness that does it. Hey, wait a minute, isn’t that car left-hand drive?

Mazda’s short-lived Eunos brand sold the AX in Japan for a few years in the early 90s, and the JDM-car-ad requirements of jaunty music, sexy foreign woman, and macho voiceover are all met in this ’91 AX ad.

But you really need to bring the AX to Malaysia to unlock the true advertising potential. This two-minute-long special-effects extravaganza for the Proton Tiara features a canoe-paddlin’ hero, a tiger that morphs into a tiger-striped muscleman, and an attractive— though modestly dressed, no doubt in deference to Malaysia’s Muslim population— woman who uses magical powers to summon a Tiara from the ether.

It’s for the CX and we’ve all seen it before, but it seems wrong to talk about classic Citroën ads without showing the what-the-hell-were-they-thinking “Robot Grace Jones” ’84 CX ad.

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12 Comments on “Adventures In Global TV Marketing: The Citroën AX...”

  • avatar

    Just a hint: If you want to see (French) vintage cars in real live environments just google for “vintage porn” (NSFW). It’s certainly more lively, as you even can see DS19’s, with a contemporary mix of other cars on (Paris) roads, although you have to cope with unshaved girls, every now and then. Amazing source, anyway.

  • avatar

    “…who knows?— its tooling may yet be brought back into action in some out-of-the-way corner of the world.”
    I sincerely hope not. A hateful little car. They rattled from the day they were built until the day they died. The only thing mine was good for was ragging it around the backlanes of Essex giving it absolutely no mercy until it died and then driving over it in my mates John Deere.

  • avatar

    These are definitely vachement chouette. (translation: absolutely incredibly cool. Literal translation: cowly (adverbial form of the bovine) cabbage. A people that uses language like that can sure make some great adverts. Damn!

  • avatar

    Sure, “hateful little car”.
    But imagine the dreadful task to create ads on such a car!
    Compare it with the Fiat Panda. Just another bare-bone little car, although having its merits, as compared to the AX.  The marketing people got it right, in comparison, by not taking it too serious and boasting about the c/w value of the Panda being better than that of the pyramids or bricks.

  • avatar

    I watched them all but, started with the CX and, as far as auto lust, could have stopped there.  I feel so old not knowing how to put the two little dots over the “e”.

  • avatar

    Thanks, Murilëë!  :)

  • avatar

    Thanks to you, too, Mazder3 – your Ω suggestion works as well.  i now feel so up to date.  :) 

  • avatar

    There was something about this car… it was so light! under 650kg for the lightest (!) … whatever engine was in, this car always felt like sporty and lively (bad soundproofing helped too!). A friend of mine living in France has the Sport model with 2 carbs … that is going like hell fast …

  • avatar

    Having driven one as a garage loaner, I can say that the Citroën AX is a great place to go on holiday but I’m not sure I’d want to live there. I don’t think I’ve ever driven a car with such fun handling and sensation of speed, or with the same sense that the whole thing is about to fall apart spontaneously.

    The low weight did come in handy when one ran over my brother’s foot [ed. I wasn’t driving] without braking a single metatarsal.

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