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The Secret History Of The Michelin Man

The advertising character we know as the Michelin Man has been used by the tire company off and on for 116 years now. His name is Bibendum, a moniker he gained from an appropriated artwork. It’s a Latin word for the act of drinking, which seems weird now, but his creators did not know Latin. And Bibendum was quite an odd character 100 years ago.

Many of the posters from the early 20th-century depict him as a somewhat sinister figure, large and bespectacled and chomping permanently on a cigar. Initially he was shown drinking champagne, which linked to the Latinate toast, and this was reinforced by a strangely worded tagline that had been first mentioned in 1893: "À Votre Santé Le Pneu Michelin Boit L’Obstacle!" (The Michelin tire drinks up obstacles!). The poster apparently led to the character being known for a while as the "road drunkard," an image that would be abhorrent to any car-related company today. But the Michelin Man learned to change with the times.

Not only did he sober up, he became less obviously wealthy. Notice the fat cat look in the 1914 poster above. Read about the evolution of the Michelin Man at Co.DESIGN. -via Digg


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Can't remember what decade it's from, but I definitely recall a poster of "Bibi", the Michelin Man, stealing away with a scantily-clad maiden tossed over his shoulder - some kind of reference to the barbarians that overran Europe in the old days, from what I remember. Viva los old days!
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