Cinema and TV campaigns library

Barilla pasta on TV (1958-2002)

Barilla pasta factory dates from 1877 when the bakery of Pietro Barilla (1845-1912) was opened in Via Vittorio Emanuele, in Parma. Starting from 1910, under the management of Gualtiero (1881-1919) and Riccardo (1880-1947), Pietro’s sons, the business was moved for industrial production to the factory in Viale Veneto, just outside the city, whereupon the Company’s fortunes registered a progressive expansion until 1940.
After World War II, during the Fifties, the Company experienced significant renewal with the entry into the activity of the brothers Pietro (1913-1993) and Gianni (1917- ), Riccardo’s sons. With the contribution of the graphic designer Erberto Carboni (1899-1984), the basis for the pasta Company’s new image was established.
When Pietro Barilla returned from the United States, he brought with him few but very clear ideas that are today widely accepted, but which were undoubtedly precursors for the period. These were the use of authentic ingredients, a quality product, a good price, packs for every pasta shapes (which were still then sold loose), recognisability of the name, logo and product, and the use of pasta for moments of celebration and gathering.



And thus in 1952, together with the new Company logo, the advertising campaign, “With Barilla pasta it’s always Sunday” was launched and it was the winner of the Golden Palm drawing the attention of millions of consumers with its curious and engaging pictures published on the pages of newspapers.
In parallel to these printed advertisings, short animated films were projected in the movie theaters during the intervals in the golden age of the Italian Cinema.
In one of his first animated films, Emanuele Luzzati (1921-2007), from Genoa, based the story around the traditional character Pulcinella in the role of a gourmet.
In the wake of the magnificent Walt Disney cartoon Fantasia, a super Italian director, Paul Bianchi (1902-1958) produced an amusing and homespun digression on the theme of pasta in the mid-1950s.
Responding well to advertising, the Company and its market grew and developed. With the birth of Italian television, Barilla was aware of the huge potential offered by the new medium and threw itself into the TV advertising with great professionalism and great attention to the quality of the message together with the quality of the product. Barilla featured in one of the first Carosello television program in 1958f with a series of fairy tales that included the Puss in Boots and Sleeping Beauty stories.
But that same year, the Company chose to make use of the testimonial approach and selected a very young Giorgio Albertazzi (19232016) for two seasons, who first discovered very rare historic films and later read out love poems, capturing the attention of the female consumers.
At the end of 1959 the partnership with Albertazzi was stopped, perhaps because he was a little too serious, and he was substituted by the popular and unpredictable Dario Fo (1926-2016). But Fo was a meteor and only lasted one series of carosello programs.
The Company, which was searching for a very particular image, was not convinced by the campaign and left Carosello to use shorter advertisements at other times of the day. Barilla’s first advertising serial appeared in 1964. It was called “Life with Bettina” and it was focused on domestic problems that Bettina always managed to solve using tact, intuition and a touch of irony. It was the first instance of Barilla advertising featuring an Italian family, which was to be the focus of their television advertising from then on.
While the Barilla communication insisted on the convenience and practicality of packaged pasta, the wonderful period of Barilla advertising with Mina (Mina Anna Mazzini, 1940-) was being prepared.
A fascinating personality, Mina was to be the outstanding interpreter of the Barilla image from 1965 to 1970. Always dressed in the most fashionable clothes, but never trivial, characterized by uncommon gestural expressiveness and acting abilities, as she sang she would elegantly and voluptuously stroke packs of Barilla pasta or sit on giant packs to advise the housewives of Italy on the quality purchases to make. Directed by great directors like Valerio Zurlini (1926-1982), Antonello Falqui (1925-), Piero Gherardi (1909-1971) and Duccio Tessari (1926-1994), who were not too disdainful to leave the worlds of cinema or television to work in advertising, Mina sang her songs, often repeated in different versions or settings.
She sang live at the Bussola in Viareggio, recorded in studios and became a favorite appointment with Italian women.
The message she presented gradually became more refined and graphically perfect, and it combined perfectly with the surreal settings, bizarre clothes, unusual camera angles, and aggressive, dynamic editing of her appearances.
Her voice and continuously changing hairstyle and look were flanked with the world of art (famous paintings by René Magritte, 1898-1967, and the sculptural sets of Mario Ceroli, 1938-).
In 10 years, the concept of advertising had evolved, though within the tight limits imposed by television standards. The testimonial had graduated from being an entertainer during a program that left little space for a promotional message to being a prime character in the promotion, whose purpose was to give the viewer someone to identify himself with.
The year 1970 marked the inauguration of the futuristic Barilla plant in Pedrignano on the Autostrada del Sole, three kilometers from Parma and Gianni (1917-2004) and Pietro Barilla (1913-1993) sold the Company to the American multinational Grace. The partnership with Mina was dissolved and the Young & Rubicam advertising agency proposed the songs of Massimo Ranieri for a couple of seasons, directed by Richard Lester, the director of the Beatles’ films (1932-), and Mauro Bolognini (1922-2001).
The clouds of recession, inflation and the controlled price of pasta become heavier. To those manufacturers who gulled the consumer by using soft wheat pasta, Barilla replied with a simple campaign to protect with the image of the Company, and the product quality. During the 1970s, the little Barilla advertising that was made was repetitive and of average quality. Renzo Marignano, the double of journalist Mario Soldati (1906-1999), the champion of regional cooking, and Raoul Casadei (1937-), the defender of good Italian traditions, made their appearance in 1975 directed by Enzo Trapani (1922-1989) and Florestano Vancini (1926-2008).
Though the quality of the advertising was no great shakes, the Company was constantly committed to defend the consumer and product quality during a politically and economically difficult time, and it was with the efforts of Barilla that in 1967 a law approved by the Italian Parliament established that pasta should be made exclusively from durum wheat. Nonetheless, the Company’s public image.
With the re-emergence of the public’s aspirations for a healthy, natural life far from the city and free from technology, the brand Mulino Bianco was created in
1975, with a product range of bread substitutes (breadsticks, rusks and cut bread) associated by new bakery products: biscuits and snacks, which were original in terms of packaging and design, and made with healthy and genuine ingredients.
A strategic decision by the Company in this period led to a series of television advertisements that lasted for more than twenty years and contributed an important page to the history of Italian advertising. But that is a story that will not be told here.
In 1979 Pietro Barilla managed to make his dream come true and buy back the Barilla Company from Grace. It was an event that had a profound effect on the Company’s advertising.
The pasta was once more strategically placed at the center of the Barilla image and, in parallel, also the importance of tradition (the handing on from father to son) and quality.
The advertisements by the agency TBWA made use once more of the Italian family (father, mother and two children) which had for some time been neglected.
In 1981 optimism, humor and the social value of eating together formed the trampoline for the great advertising campaign of 1983, produced in two parts, in which the first did not even mention the name of the Company; instead it was referred to as being always al dente, like its spaghetti.
In 1985, almost as a tribute to the cinema and pasta, Federico Fellini (1920-1993) was invited to direct an advertisement for Barilla. Almost irreverent in its class, it marked the relaunch of the philosophy of the quality of the Company image (almost a reflection of product quality) and practically provided a new departure from the Company’s traditional image.
Reminiscent of Fellini’s approach, in 1989 the Russian director Nikita Michalkov (1945-) created another unforgettable page in the history of Barilla advertising when he set his story in Moscow’s Red Square.
Then the Young & Rubicam agency, which had been invited in 1985 to built build a new image for Barilla for the 1980s, proposed affable, ironic, family-based situations that were full of sentiment and affection.
This sentimental series covered a whole range of situations, from the first astounding 120-second “Train” spot (1985), which identified Barilla with the music of Vangelis (1943-) rather than with a character, to homages to maternity (1986), lunch with the cadets’ family (1986), the sentiment-filled saving of a rain sodden cat (1986), the magic of the seabed narrated by a diver (1988), the memory of distant loved ones represented by a spiral (1988), the love for the environment of a child fishing (1990), the good wishes of Father Christmas impersonated by Paul Newman (1925-2008), and understanding in the new Italian multiracial society through a simple, enjoyable spaghetti meal (1990).
According to a survey by the Corriere della Sera, the success of the series characterized by “the image of feelings” contributed to making Barilla the name of the most widely known Company and products by Italians.
Barilla had grown and become an important Company in several European countries. To launch its image beyond national borders, Barilla linked its name to sport and the faces of famous testimonials. In Germany the Company used Steffi Graff (1969-) to present Barilla pasta from 1991 to 1994, with the image that it was as refined as a jewel and as cheerful and free and easy as a tennis champion. Sticking with tennis, Barilla chose Stefan Edberg (1966-) to promote Barilla pasta in the Scandinavian countries. Placido Domingo (1941-), almost a national hero to the Spanish, combined his glorious voice with pasta flavors and Gérard Depardieu (1948-) told the French with subtle irony about the marvels of Italian cooking.
In the early 1990s, the long sentimental series was replaced with a more current message that emphasized the healthy balance of a Mediterranean diet using graphical images of the dietary pyramid.

As the face-off between brand-name companies and the anonymous hard discount stores became tougher in the early 1990s, in 1994 the Italian public was subjected to an immense blue horizon. The attention of the consumer was returned to the Barilla universe by the singer Zucchero Fornaciari (1955-) and the song White Christmas, the magical fork-cum-pendant of Cindy Crawford (1966-) and performances by Alberto Tomba (1966-). It was a world in which quality was most important and made the best moments of life joyful.
In 1999 Young & Rubicam were asked to oversee Barilla’s communications for the whole world and suggested the use of the historic headline Dove c’è Barilla, c’è casa [Where there’s Barilla, there’s home]. To the elegant background music written by Andrea Griminelli (1963-) and Roberto Molinelli (1963-), the storyline was no longer based on a return home, but on departures, journeys and different countries and cultures.
Once away from home, the sense of ‘foreignness’ was diluted when the character sat down to plate of pasta, and the memory and warmth of home was enjoyed. It was the ‘flavour of quality’.
In 2002, to celebrate an important achievement, Barilla asked the German film director Wim Wenders (1945-) to tell the story of the hopes and achievements of 125 years of Barilla’s existence through the script written by Alessandro Baricco (1958-). The result was a vast fresco that celebrated the efforts and commitment of the people of the Barilla Company to create quality products.
Quality is the thread that has run through the 125 years of the Company’s history and almost half a century of television advertising; making use of highly talented individuals, Barilla has made TV the medium through which it proposes the themes that underlie its consistent and long-lasting philosophy.