Citroën has etched its legacy in the hearts and minds of car lovers with a beautiful wooden sculpture of one its most beloved car models. And now, Michel Robillard’s work of art is featured in a poignant new spot from agency Traction. The film is Traction’s first work for Citroën.
Julien Grimaldi, Traction’s global account director, says that the spot resonates with so many people that Citroën is adapting it for viewers outside of France. Here Grimaldi shares the story behind the craftsmanship.
How would you define the legacy of the Citroën 2CV?
Throughout its history, Citroën has made a number of legendary vehicles, from the Traction Avant, to the DS, the Méhari, and even the Ami6. But one of its models stands out: the 2CV.
The 2CV was immensely popular. The car was immediately recognizable. Many of us can’t forget the first time we stepped into one. At the time, the layout of the rear seats was a real breakthrough. Citroën went on to produce more than five million units in more than 40 years.
The 2CV also made its way into movies. So many of us remember seeing it driven by Bourvil in “Le Corniaud” or Louis de Funès in the highly popular movie series “Les Gendarmes”. The car has become a real prize for collectors.
The 2CV was a car, built for the time and designed for people who needed an inexpensive vehicle that would provide comfort and room. Citroën made that car for them.
How does this wooden 2CV honor that legacy?
This wooden 2CV highlights the love that people have for this iconic model, and the emotional link between the French and the car they nicknamed “La Deuche.” It is the product of a craftsman, and it pays homage to the designers of this legendary vehicle. And since images of the 2CV have been digitized, it’s now truly a timeless car.
Why did Citroën decide to feature the wooden 2CV in its inaugural campaign with Traction?
We brought this idea to Citroën: Create content around the wooden 2CV created by Michel Robillard. Citroën agreed—immediately. We knew that this was the right project to kick off our relationship with the brand for several reasons: It’s an idea based on the brand DNA, and it reinforces the Citroën point of view; it’s inspired by the community, and, more important, it’s user-generated. And it’s completely digital-centric.
And who is Michel Robillard?
Michel Robillard is a retired carpenter. He has always been a huge fan of the 2CV. He challenged himself to craft a 2CV vehicle entirely made out of wood that could really run. Mission accomplished.
What do marketers hope that the audience learns about the brand through this new spot?
We believe a strong brand is a brand that is true to its DNA. This belief is even more important for a brand like Citroën which has a broad offering and isn’t a specialist carmaker, with only a pair of vehicles that define its identity.
With this particular campaign, we wanted to emphasize the emotional bond that Citroën has with its consumers. Also, digital has made its way into Citroën via social media and an online digital platform, and we highlight that in this spot.
Does this film tap into a sense of nostalgia for the 2CV?
On the contrary. Entering the wooden 2CV into Citroën’s digital Hall of Fame shows how the history of a brand can still be a part of its future—and help drive its vision. And I have to admit that I would love to see Citroën launch a modern take on the iconic 2CV and sell it in its stores, kind of like what Fiat did with its 500 model.
It does, however, make a strong connection with all the people who have created memories with the original 2CV vehicle. But this campaign appeals to all car lovers and Citroën enthusiasts—and maybe also those who love carpentry.
The 2CV was the first massive French car success, so this campaign was made for the French people first. But we are finding out that people in other countries are also fond of it. So, we’re currently in the process of adapting it for Germany.
What’s the plan for the future of the 2CV?
The Wooden 2CV belongs to its creator, Michel Robillard, who is in charge of keeping and preserving it. As a tribute to his work, Citroën created a digital copy of the vehicle. The car has been shot from every single angle; the resulting images were then digitized before being inducted into the brand’s digital Hall of Fame, Citroën Origins. Everyone can now experience it.
Who crafted the Citroen logo in wood?
Sculptor Pascal Arlot. With his talent, he made sure to create something on a par with the work of Michel Robillard. During the production phase, we took great care to select the right technique and the right material to expand on the original wood sculpture idea. We decided to engrave and photograph a real Citroën logo made of wood. Citroën used the wooden logo as its profile picture on its social media channels during the project. We were proud to make the collaboration happen between Michel Robillard and a master craftsman like Pascal Arlot, who was voted the best carpenter in France.
This whole campaign is an emotional tribute. And we tip our hats to everyone who made it come to life.
Ad Agency: BETC Paris
Executive Creative Director: Stephane Xiberras
Creative Director: Nicolas Lautier
Creatives: Julien Vergne, Alexandre Girod
Assistant Art Director: Marie Glotin
Director: Augustin Lacape