I chose to analyze this ad for the Citroen from 1968. The first thing that I notice about the ad is that its focus is not on the car itself. In fact, by the end of the advertisement you don’t ever really see the entire car. The ad is filmed in the dark, and only the silhouette and the lights of the car are visible. The music that is playing evokes a sense of adventure and suspense as the car is seen taking one sharp turn after another.

By not showing the car itself we see that, as Barthes stated, “until now, the ultimate in cars belonged to the bestiary of power; here it becomes at once more spiritual and objectlike.” In fact, that’s just how the car appears in the ad – spiritual. More in the sense that you can’t really see it, so it feels as though it is a spirit itself, moving about the twists and turns with ease, almost like a ghost would be able to maneuver things.

Not allowing the viewer to actually see the car also highlights the fact that they don’t want this to be seen as just another automobile, but instead it is an experience. The car is seen as a “magical object,” as Barthes would say. I think this ad also beautifully supports Barthes statement that “it is well known that smoothness is always an attribute of perfection because it’s opposite reveals a technical and typically human operation of assembling.” Not only is the smoothness of the car’s handling displayed well in the add, but also the physical smoothness is hinted at by only allowing the smooth lines of the silhouette to be seen. Plus, there is the fact that humans are totally absent from the ad. We know that there is a driver, of course, but they are never seen in the ad. This contributes to Barthes idea that human things are often assembled and therefore not necessarily perfect or as smooth as more natural things. This also goes back to the spirituality of the car. By not showing the driver, it makes it seem as though the car itself is alive, taking the turns, lighting it’s own path with the headlights that turn with the wheels.

All in all I can see why this car would have made such a scene when it arrived. Having headlights that can practically look around corners really does bring the car to life and give it an edge over the competition. Sure, other cars may go faster but they probably can’t see where they’re going before they get there.

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One response »

  1. Michael K. Johnson says:

    This is an interesting ad. With this particularl Barthes essay, though, I think you have to modify your approach. You are correct in your observation about the “spiritual” element of the car (moving like a ghost in the night, seemingly without a driver), but I think we have to depart from Barthes and the opposition he makes between “power” and “spirit” here. The car in this ad suggest both–this is a powerful spirit moving along this mountain road. Likewise, Barthes insists on looking at the car as an “object,” and his description is of something motionless, as he interested in how the car looks. The ad is more focused on how the car performs. I like what you’re doing here in this post, and this might provide a good starting point for the first essay, but what you will want to do is step back from Barthes and be aware as well of the way this particular ad sees something different in the car than Barthes does.

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