Renault Clio, 33 years of advertising memories

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Think “It’s got everything of a great car”. Or “Papa ? Nicole ?” What car comes to mind? These lines have attracted as much of a cult following as the car they endorse, Renault Clio. And they are not the only advertising masterstrokes. Arnaud Belloni, Renault Global Chief Marketing Officer, shares his expert insight on the most memorable campaigns and catchphrases from Clio’s 33-year-long advertising history. He talks about his all-time favourites, the “Oh l’Amour” campaign on now, and a new commercial coming this December.

Clio’s 33-year-young advertising saga is as remarkable as the car itself – which is France’s best-selling model (at 16 million units and counting), “has got everything of a great car” in a very real sense, and has inspired myriad adverts and slogans since 1990. That, incidentally, is exactly when Arnaud Belloni started his career in marketing and advertising. He is now Renault’s Global Chief Marketing Officer and sat down with us to talk about his 33 years of advertising memories.

Bizarre beginnings

Renault Clio was an overnight hit in 1990, the press and public were unanimously wowed, and the car was looking at a bright future. But Arnaud Belloni wasn’t all that enthusiastic about the first TV campaign, “Clio Transformers”. He remembers thinking to himself, “It’s impossible to mess up an advert for a car as important as the Clio!” In hindsight, however, the special (or rather bizarre) effects in the film didn’t hurt the city car. The film soon lapsed into oblivion and the following ones “made up for it”, Arnaud Belloni remembers with a smile.

The cult films from the 1990s

The 1990s adverts, in his view, include some of the best ever. He especially enjoyed the comical trilogy for the French market featuring the now illustrious catchphrase “It’s got everything of a great car”: the Russian episode (1992), the Chinese one (1994) and the Sicilian (“Godfather”) one (1995).

The jury that singled out Clio as European Car of the Year in 1991 agreed that it had “everything of a great car”: “The new compact car has remarkable styling, strong quality levels, generous cabin spaces, and unprecedented equipment for a model of this size.”

Another offbeat punchline that Arnaud Belloni recalls is the one at the end of the Clio Baccara advert in 1991: a rich emir is willing to let his son take over his wealth, honours and responsibilities, on condition he gives up his Clio because it’s “Not expensive enough, my son.”

Meanwhile, the UK was enjoying the immensely successful and equally long-lasting “Papa & Nicole” saga. A whole generation of British viewers remember the many films from 1991 to 1998.

A sense of humour and smart wording

Some advertising campaigns are so bright that they outshine the product they promote. Arnaud Belloni – and no doubt many others – remembers the 1999 film for the Clio II MTV limited edition, which travelled much further than the car’s spin-off. The main character frantically repeating the short, sharp “Get up ah”, the only bit he hears from James Brown’s song “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” is tantalising – and the buzz it created was overwhelming.

Arnaud Belloni sums up this first selection, spanning the nineties and noughties, thus: “Most of these films that have made a lasting impression on me have one thing in common: their sense of humour.” And we could add clever phrasing: the choice of words in the 2009 Clio III film is so perfect and pithy that Arnaud wishes he had found the slogan himself: Renault Clio, an outward sign of inner wealth.”

Stunning imagery and great music

After laughs and wit, advertisers started using other arrows in their quiver for Clio IV and Clio V, starting with goosebumps. The 2019 short film in the UK, for instance, takes a strong stand: it features two young girls and their childhood pen-palling blossoming into an adult love story over the years and over five Clio generations, with a cover of Oasis’ planetary hit “Wonderwall” in the background.

The 2022 commercial is a dazzling dive into retro 1990s and 2000s vibes. The cartoony effect and “Video Killed The Radio Star” soundtrack thrilled Arnaud Belloni. The message is that old-timers are now young-timers and Clio is a late-20th-century icon.

Arnaud Belloni wraps up his choice of Clio adverts with the brand’s latest campaign. The energy is changing, but the love is still there,” he says about the commercial powered by a remix of the 1980s smash hit “Oh l’Amour”. In his words, the advert is extremely “fashionable” and “premium” – so perfect for the latest Clio, which features a new E-Tech full hybrid powertrain.

A surprise for the end of the year

Arnaud Belloni adds that there is another surprise in store to enhance this heritage: a new commercial, celebrating the 33rd anniversary of Clio advertising, will be released this December. It is a carte-blanche commission from Belgian rap artist Scylla. The tune, lyrics and production are made to measure for Renault Clio. So the saga continues and Clio shines on.