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Largest advertisement in the world and when the Eiffel Tower was yellow!

Last Updated on 1st February 2022 by Sophie Nadeau

Do you remember that time when the Eiffel Tower was yellow? No? Well, for the record, I’m not talking about a subtle cream tone either. I’m talking about a full blown canary in-your-face yellow! And then there was that time that it displayed the largest advertisement in the world. Like. Ever. It even won a Guinness World Record!

largest advertisement in the world

Venetian Red in… Paris?! Canary Yellow… on the Eiffel Tower?

When you visit Paris today, you can expect to see the Eiffel Tower painted in shades of brown. And there’s no questioning that these blend perfectly into the Parisian skyline. However, this wasn’t always the case. Oh no.

In fact, the Eiffel Tower has seen no fewer than 18 repaints during its lifetime (which totals just under 120 years). France may be the city of high fashion but, it still makes mistakes. Like any fashionista, the Eiffel Tower has committed a fair few fashion faux-pas during its time.

Built in the late 19th Century, the Eiffel Tower was first painted in a ‘Venetian red’ which is a dark burgundy colour. Within a year the Iron Lady was repainted a deep brown shade. So yes, this is why all of those posters of the World Fair in Paris don’t depicting the Eiffel Tower as red

Paris world's fair 1889
Print from the Paris World’s Fair 1889. Via trialsanderrors Flickr CC

The Eiffel Tower is painted again!

Within ten years, the Eiffel Tower was painted once again! This time, it was painted in graduating shades of orange. With all these garish colour schemes wonder so many Parisians hated it! And because it’s France, people let their feelings be known!

Famed for hating the Eiffel Tower with a passion (and being a writer), Guy Maupassant would often sit and eat his lunch directly below the tower. Asked why he did this, he replied that it was the only place in the city that he wouldn’t be able to see the tower!

Between 1907 and 1947, the Tour Eiffel was painted yellow. Today (and ever since 1968), the Eiffel Tower’s three tiers are painted in graduating brown tones to blend into the Parisian skyline. The shade of brown is named ‘Eiffel Tower Brown’. I can’t help but think that this makes for a lot prettier Instagram photos!

view from the eiffel tower early 1900s
View from the 2nd Floor of the Eiffel Tower, early 20th century. Courtesy Wikipedia.

The Largest advertisement in the World (and best in Paris?)!

But the strangest decor scheme for the Eiffel Tower wasn’t even the garish yellow or questionable oranges. No, by far and large the strangest decor applied to the Eiffel Tower has got to be the 250,000 lightbulbs that were used to create the holy grail of advertisements.

A glittering, starry, giant ‘CITROEN’. You know, like the car. 600 km of cable, 30 metres high, Citroen didn’t mess around. And I imagine, neither did the electricity bill! The advertisement even won the Guinness World Record for being the biggest advertisement in the world!

Whoever came up with the marketing campaign (*André Citroën himself) deserves a freakin’ award. In 1925, Citroen hired the Eiffel Tower out as one giant billboard. During this time, the Tower was lit up each night with the word ‘Citroen’ emblazoned on its Seine-facing side.

However, this #ad only lasted nine years. Whether it was from overspending on advertisements or a result of the great depression, Citroen went bust by the mid 30s. André Citroen was forced to declare bankruptcy and the company he had founded was sold to Michelin (at the request of the French government). The giant ‘Citroen’ advert was swiftly removed from the Eiffel Tower and the new owner decided not to renew the contract.

Whatever the case, perhaps the largest advertisement in the World was one of the reasons the car became so well known. And perhaps it’s one of the reasons why you can spot so many Citroens driving around the city today…

eiffel tower citroen paris

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