It is an interesting moment for Italian advertising. I would not call it an advertising renaissance (yet), but it is surely a very interesting moment for all clients, agencies, production companies and suppliers that are - and want to be - curious about the moment and courageous about their work. Although there still isn't a constant flow of 'curious' and 'courageous' work, there certainly is a buzz and a bubbling feeling in the Italian market which makes the work that peaks above all others intelligent, likeable and interesting to the audiences both within our country, and sometimes outside. The five examples I have chosen here show how, in our little boot-shaped country, we have taken global trends and adapted them to our culture; how we have taken our culture and extruded it through global trends; how we’ve relaunched brands that are international with the most relevantly global language possible; and how we have explored relevant issues in the most creatively relevant, global and positive way. Italy today, right now, is where big and small, tradition and innovation, past and future collide, and, as a young Michelangelo probably said at some point, we might just be getting started...
Heineken - 'A Lockdown Love Story'
Agency: Publicis Italy
Director: Show Yanagisawa
Publicis Italy is one of the top and most awarded agencies in the world, so there is no way I can start my High Five without celebrating it for such an amazing year and for such amazing work for so many of its clients. The work the agency has done for Heineken - for example in the past year, all through the pandemic and right through the different lockdowns - has been the most interesting, relevant, consistent, clever, insightful and, most important of all, ironic
we’ve seen created for any international brand. After Heineken presented us with 'Ode to Close
', 'Smart Working
', 'Home Gatherings
' and 'We’ll Meet Again
', a few weeks ago, it released 'A Lockdown Story' - its latest episode about the pandemic and beyond. Although, honestly, this two-minute film is not my favourite of the bunch, it certainly shows how amazingly in tune with the moment Publicis has been and how a great relationship with a client can bring great work that shows off a clever courageous brand in a clever insightful way, on a global level.
Barilla - 'The Real #CreepyPasta'
Agency: We Are Social
Production, Post & Music: We Are Social Studios x Blink Fish x Ocular Studios
Barilla is one of the most famous Italian brands in the world. It's about tradition, and all of Italy’s culinary tradition squeezed in a blue box of pasta. The work Barilla has done in the past years with its agencies has been phenomenal, diverse, multi-channel, multi-platform, clever, relevant, intelligent, young and, in its own Barilla way, very aware of its past and its strengths. The way Barilla cleverly invaded and creatively hacked other platforms and media in the past year is amazing. With great prowess, the brand exploded on Youtube with 'Carebonara
', on Instagram and Facebook with 'The Rooftop Match
' and on Spotify with 'Playlist Timer
'. The latest work, 'The Real #CreepyPasta', which broke first on TikTok on Halloween, pokes fun at some of the typical 'don'ts' related to pasta in a Halloween-friendly, ironically scary manner. Tradition, irony and innovation thanks to We Are Social in Milan.
Lavazza - 'Café Gran Paulista'
Agency: Armando Testa
Production: Red Bull Studios
Post: Taba Design
From 1957 to 1977, Italy’s national TV station, RAI, created a 30-minute branded content show called 'Carosello'. Yes, a branded content show, made up of a back-to-back 'carousel' of brand-created sketches, animations, puppetry and comedy short films starring some of the best actors and actresses and artists and celebrities of their time. Does it sound familiar? All kids and all adults - 20 million people every night - would sit in front of the TV to watch 'Carosello'. We would all laugh and be entertained, and then us kids would say goodnight and go to bed. Entertainment was at the centre of the show's success, and that was incredible seeing that we talk about the entertaining and engaging values we look for in today’s branded content the same way 'Carosello' looked for the same values more than 40 years ago. Armando Testa, the founder of the Armando Testa Agency in Italy and creator of some of the best 'Carosello' characters of all time, was able to etch his advertising in our cultural consciousness. This is why I have chosen the Gran Paulista piece, because it's pretty soothing and heartwarming for us Italians to see the characters that are part of our amazing advertising tradition brought to life again. 45 years later, in the most thoughtful and respectful way possible, and find out that we had not only not forgotten them, but we had actually missed them a little. PS) for those of you with nitpicking streak, this content was posted on YouTube in July, but was 'press-released' at the end of November.
Juventus Football Club - 'Don’t Sit and Watch’
Agency & Production: We Are Social
The statistic related to violence against women is pretty scary - one in three women is a victim of some sort of violence. In this clever film, Juventus and We Are Social (yes, them again!) visually show us exactly what that statistic means by covering a third of the seats of the Allianz Juventus Stadium with a notice that reads '#DontSitAndWatch'. I like this project a lot. Released on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, its strength lies in the fact that it is not directed towards the perpetrators or the victims, but instead it targets the 'deafening silence' surrounding the issue of violence towards women. This silence immediately makes us all complicit if we 'sit and watch' and don't do anything about it. There's nothing like seeing 14,000 orange notes on 14,000 seats in a 41,500 capacity stadium, to get the problem right in your face.
Coordown - 'The Hiring Chain'
Production: Indiana Productions
Director: Rich Lee
Production Service: Palma Pictures
Post: Drive Studios
I need to confess that 'The Hiring Chain' is not within the time parameters I was given for this selection, but with the risk of being thrown out of High Five or contested by it, I will choose it as my fifth pick of the pack. 'The Hiring Chain' for Coordown, the association that for almost 10 years has spearheaded some of the best advertising work created for Down Syndrome Day, is one of the most awarded advertising films of 2021, and seeing that its run in the award shows does not seem to be over, I think it deserves to be here on this list as an Italian excellence - and for that, it deserves a great applause. 'The Hiring Chain' hits all the right chords and fills all the right nooks and crannies of the perfect advertising project: the creativity is positive, the insight is spot on, the song is catchy, the mood is right, the crafting is perfect, the way the 'social issue' is exposed is clear, the PR value (performed by STING) is priceless, the call for action is immediate and easy, the website you land on works perfectly, the effectiveness of the whole project is measurable and clear, and the issue of inclusion is worthwhile and needed. The film is so well put together and has been so effective for the client that it almost feels easy when you see it, because everything - all facets - were taken to their basic need and purpose, and by that doing that, they exploded all together. Less is certainly more, but to do 'less', you need talent. You need to be very direct and focused, and there is nothing more direct and focused than an agency called SMALL, owned by two founders / ECDs that were smart working before we all learnt how to smart work, and that do not ever go forward with any idea that cannot be explained in 12 words or less. Voilà!