Dreaming of Ella

Autumn 1975. A poster reads: “Do you remember those good biscuits that tasted of butter, milk, wheat? Look for them tomorrow morning at Mulino Bianco”. It is the advertising debut of the new line. 

Art director Sergio Mambelli recalled that the posterboard, in its simplicity, contained already “all the conceptual, emotional and formal elements of the historical cycle of Mulino Bianco communications. The nostalgic tone, the food value, the biscuits themselves shown not on a tray but placed on ears of wheat and wildflowers, finally the yellow background and a large brand logo made the presence of packaging useless: the poster represented it perfectly in all of its elements“.  Although printed press and billboards always were the forefront of creativity, it was on television, above all, that the fate of a product was played out. 

Carosello was bout to end (it went off the air on January 1, 1977) and its media coverage had considerably reduced, but it was still capable of fascinating young and old. And the genesis of Mulino Bianco was planned so accurately (from the study of the logo and the name, coordinated image, creation of a highly evocative world…) that it deserved a great television campaign, which would immediately give strength to the “brand identity” and impose the new line to public attention.  Therefore, it was decided to resort to a celebrity. But not just any occasional one: a world-famous artist, loved and venerated by entire generations: Ella Fitzgerald. 

The details of the operation are unfortunately shrouded in the fog of time and oblivion. It seems that the idea was to combine traditional biscuits with the great classics of jazz music, sung by the First Lady of Song, who in the end would have accompanied the presentation of the products to the notes of Moon River. Even the “approach maneuvers” to the big star border on the world of hypothesis and probabilities: perhaps the presence of the American multinational Grace (at the time, owner of Barilla) was decisive; perhaps – in his own way – director and producer Mario Fattori, friend and patron of many Italian and American jazz musicians, played a role again in the company after the memorable Carosello commercials of the late fifties with Giorgio Albertazzi and Dario Fo… 

The fact is that an agreement was reached. Gianni Maestri, then head of the brand, remembers that everything was ready and signed: “a contract worth a few tens of millions, the plane ticket in her pocket…” But fate got in the way: Ella fell ill. Being no longer young, the doctors forbid her to take that flight (fortunately she went on to live twenty more years). But the campaign schedule was set and unmovable, and the spaces on air already booked… it could not be postponed. It was necessary to give up on the idea of the celebrity and fall back on “cooked and eaten” Carosello commercials of old folk nursery rhymes, shot by the director (partner of Pubblicitari Associati) Andrea Cardile, which were regularly broadcast in 1976.  The prestigious presence of Ella Fitzgerald in the history of Italian advertising thus remained a sweet unfinished dream