Bibendum: "Puffed up and provocative"

I've always loved advertising characters. In fact, I have a collection of over 200 advertising figures in my home studio. Bob's Big Boy hangs out on my desk with Toucan Sam, Sprout, Mr. Bubble, Cap'n Crunch and Chinese versions of Tony the Tiger. Colonel Sanders, Marky Maypo, the Trix Rabbit, Frankenberry, Sleepy, Snap, Crackle, Pop, Tillie the Tillamook cow, and many others look on from around the room. With the increasing value of the growing collection, I somewhat jokingly refer to it as "my retirement fund."

One of my favorites has always been Bibendum, better known to most as "the Michelin Man." As a kid, I remember seeing him on billboards, in the form of large roadside statues, and even sitting on an ashtray at my grandparents' house. He stands tall (and in other forms) among all the characters in my studio gathering.

Recently, with the popularity of the traveling exhibition “Nunc est Bibendum, An Iconographic Legend Since 1898,” Bibendum has been getting a lot of international news coverage. The exhibit is currently at the Conde Duque Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporaneo in Madrid until January 14, 2007. Additional locations in Europe, and eventually the United States and Japan, will be announced in the future. Michelin has a fun, abbreviated version of the exhibition on their corporate website.

The Michelin Man was first created in 1898 by French entrepreneurs AndrĂ© and Edouard Michelin in cooperation with the artist O’Galop (pseudonym of Marius Rossillon). Edouard noticed how a display of tires, stacked one on top of the other at an exhibition in Lyon, resembled the shape of a portly restaurant reviewer he knew. He told his brother Andre, who commissioned O'Galop to recreate Edouard's vision. The new character appeared in a 1898 poster showing him offering a toast, "Nunc est bibendum" (“It’s time to drink,”- or "Cheers" - in Latin), to his competitors with a glass full of highway dangers such as jagged glass. Nearly 100 years later, in 2000, Bibendum was selected as the "most recognized corporate symbol" by an international panel at the Financial Times.

Hopefully I will be able to see the exhibition in person at some location in Europe or when it comes to the U.S. I'll post any exhibit location updates in future bLog-oMotives entries.

One of my own Bibendums (in the photo above) is a 1980-81 French representation of a slim and trim Michelin Man. There's even an entire book about such Michelin items: The Michelin Man: An Unauthorized Advertising Showcase. I'll introduce you to some of my other advertising "friends" later. For more information about iconic advertising characters you might want to take a look at the books Meet Mr. Product: The Art of the Advertising Character or What a Character: 20th Century American Advertising Icons

© 2006 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives.

1 comment:

Brad McCall said...

Your post reminds me of a few years ago when Bibendum (The Michelin Man) went on a "diet" just in time for his 100th birthday. I remember hearing the buzz around town that they slimmed him down because he apparently looked "too fat". "He's a pile of tires" I would respond to such an absurd comment. (He also lost his glasses as well - can you say mascot lasik?)