The Barilla train: a journey that lasted for decades

by Emmanuel Grossi

The year 1985 was a crucial year of transition for Barilla communication. The company had ended a long collaboration with the TBWA agency and had begun an important tender for the allocation of its advertising budget. The only fixed point of the new strategy would be the “Al Dente” slogan, inherited from the latest campaigns1 (which were not noteworthy) and this was the protagonist of a media hype as it was suspected to be a subliminal message. The reason for this slogan was the desire to stress the central role of the esteemed quality of Canadian wheat, at that time used for pasta production.
Therefore, the best minds of Italian advertising went to work to churn out a series of alluring proposals, involving the best script writers of cinema (for some of them this would have been their first experience with advertising that did not fall through), or advocating a return in great style of Mina.

The one to win the card game instead was Gavino Sanna, creative director of Young & Rubicam, which was not convinced at all of the previous strategy line, and who ignored the directives of the client and left full freedom of choice to two of his best creative minds, art director Roberto Fiamenghi and copywriter Andrea Concato, both destined to long lasting success.
In a short time, he introduced himself to Pietro Barilla with an ambitious project of ample breath to build the value of the brand, aimed not only to make it become the undisputed leader of the sector, but to identify it with the family values, the domestic hearth, the sphere of sentiments and good feelings (at the time not altogether a mannerism): Where there’s Barilla there’s homewas born.

Concato and Fiamenghi had already thought of the first subjects, but it was necessary to find a starter that would catch the attention of the media. They thought of something totally new, and at the same time of something ancient: a two minute film, like in the times of Carosello (that nonetheless Gavino did not love neither regretted). The story was long and mysterious and was well shot by Barry Kinsman, and was totally narrated by images and music, without speaking. At first the viewers do not understand where the story is trying to lead, if the spot advertises the Italian Railroads or the telephone company, a brand of clothing or of cars up until when the gate and doors of Villa Nannini in Siena disclose to reveal something extremely clear: the first thought of the successful manager coming back home is for her, his beloved pasta.


  1. Campaign “1983 – Al dente – Mamma e figlio”
    Campaign “1983 – Al dente – Papà e figlia”
    Campaign “1983 – Al dente – Marito e moglie”
    Campaign “1983 – Al dente – Moglie e Marito”
    Campaign “1981 – Al dente – Messaggi teaser”