At the theater with Pulcinella

by Emmanuel Grossi

The Eighties are very important for Voiello: they marked its definitive relaunch, which began in the middle of the previous decade with the acquisition by Barilla and then continued with the restyling of the logo and packaging and a marketing strategy aimed at positioning among the high end products.

After a few timid approaches to advertising, in 1982 the TBWA agency thought it the opportune time to invest in television. Coherently with the contemporary communication, it focused on historicity and fame of the brand. They thought of Pulcinella, the emblem of Neapolitan culture which already appeared in the logo.
Copywriter Mauro Costa (author of the spot together with art director Loris Losi) therefore wrote a poem, a true ode to Neapolitan lifestyle and to the virtues from which derive the high quality of pasta, still made with bronze extruders, according to tradition. When it came to choosing a director, producer Stefano Patrizi (who had already worked on Rediscover the taste of midday for Barilla pasta the year before) proposed the name he thought to be most suitable to Film Master: Armando Pugliese.

For Armando (a true Neapolitan!) it was his debut in advertising (he later continued throughout the 1980s to direct nice shorts for various clients, mostly working with two trusted Barilla companies, CBN and Film Master). The contact came from Stefano’s “previous life”, who in his twenties, before going into advertising, acted in successful movies (just think of Conversation Piece by Luchino Visconti). He had also had a short interlude in the theater in 1978, when he played a secondary role in Don Quixote with Flavio Bucci… directed by Pugliese himself.
Pugliese remembers that he had been summoned while he was following a theatrical staging in Mola di Bari (in late 1982). And from Puglia he had to travel to Milan to film in the small but delightful Teatro Gerolamo, for a long time home to the historic headquarters of the Carlo Colla puppet company. He also remembers choosing a talented Neapolitan actor, Tommaso Bianco, as the protagonist in the role of Pulcinella. Many will remember him (exactly ten years later) in the cult movie Parenti Serpenti by Mario Monicelli. Producers Stefano Coffa and Giorgio Marino engaged to work side by side with Pugliese a valid cinematographer, Franco Paroni (also to compensate for his lack of experience in advertising). Nevertheless …

Both Paroni and account Augusto Lusvardi Guazzoni recall that, when they viewed the material, the footage turned out to be below expectations. Nevertheless, the commercial was edited and presented to the client, but the Voiello executives did not consider it suitable for broadcasting.
Film Master however enrolled it in industry festival competitions. And – ironically – it won an award in the U.S. as shown by the diploma of merit that Pugliese still retains and the article that appeared on the periodical Strategia.
Today, thanks to the Barilla Historical Archive, the short is finally visible to everyone: an important piece of the brand history that has always been tied to its cultural and geographical roots.