Thursday, April 1

The Michelin Man - World's worst ad icon

I took my car in for a revision.  Since I had the choice of looking at naked women or what a male-oriented industry offers 51% of its clientele while you wait: a big fat blimp wrapped in bandages, I chose the blimp.  And then my thoughts migrated to this man, one of the most recognizable figures on earth, second only to George Clooney (and probably a lot more reliable).
Now I'm often amazed at the utter stupidity behind advertisements in Italy (but it's pretty universal -- I just happen to live here), but I think you gotta hand it to the French. There are so many things wrong with this icon that I don't know where to begin.  So, I'll start at the beginning - his humble origins when drawn by -- yes, you guessed it - most likely a 'figlio di papà', Andre Michelin.  Proving my theory once again that most of the ludicrous ads we get are created by the offspring of the Company owners...

For a company making its name in tires - and therefore - road safety, they used Bibendum as their role model.  I just discovered while editing a book in French, that our dear friend Bibendum is the personification of the Latin phrase,  
"Nunc est bibendum! (Now is the time to drink!)"  
No wonder he needs all those tires around him - when he crashes from drunk driving into the reinforced pilons of the highway overpass.
[The fact they used a drinking slogan, also lends credence to my second theorum governing 'figli di papà' -- their only real talent is knowing how to open Champagne.]

Their incredible leap in logic, of course, was that Michelin would swallow up the obstacles (like cases of beer).  I'd truly like to know how many beer-drinking Frenchmen know Latin expressions.  But, decades on, and hugely successful as he's been, maybe this is a mute point.

And finally, there's the 'man' himself.  Although I've seen him depicted with a dashing scarf around his neck, there can't be anyone further from the emaciated Frenchmen (Gerard Depardieux excepted) we've come to know and love (but not be totally over the top for, either -- I reference: Sarkozy, Vincent Cassel - heck, their most famous personality is The Little Prince).

Here's a guy who probably should have been conceived in the USA, where in fact, most people (especially those driving big vehicles) look like this guy.  And, they probably down more than their fair share of beer.  No wonder Bibendum lasted so long - once America built all their roads, who better than a humanoid blimp to represent them.
And to counter the wily French marketing savvy, Goodyear came out with its very own real Blimp.  Bigger, fatter, and it flies!

Talk about oneupmanship.  Considering the rivalry between the two countries, you'd think the French would have disowned Bibendum the moment the Pillsbury Doughboy was formed.

Anyway, as for me, perhaps we should come up with some other images in the mechanics' garages, or in the very least, they could offer up the female equivalent: a rather large woman in a burkha. Or, George Clooney.


Dave514 said...

A Tutti:
Sunday is "nunc est bibendun," It is Easter Sunday and a time of great celebration, for it is the day of eternal hope.

So to all a very Happy Easter!

Irreverent Italy said...

Buona Pasqua anche a te...But, I think it's only a time for drinking if you've gone off it for Lent!!!

In the meantime, I prefer:

Natale con i tuoi,
Pasqua con chi vuoi.

(Christmas with your 'rents, Easter with whomever you choose...)