Women In Italian Advertising

18 Aug

Oh, people. Sigh, sigh, sigh. The more things never change around here, the more they stay the same. Record? Meet broken. You’ll be living in Italy for probably the rest of your God-forsaken dizzy life, spinning a sordid tale of greasy, misogynistic ploys for consumer dollars.

Folks, honestly. Today is my last day of vacation, so believe you me, I frankly didn’t feel like writing my 501st (yay me, BTW, yesterday marked 500 posts!) post today, and much less on this topic. But when duty (doodie) calls, one must, well—answer. So here is my response. *deep breath* [Inner voice: “Stay calm, Shelley. Just hold it together.”]

First of all, if you don’t think we’ve been down this road before, think again. And again. And again. And, (even without the images, simply for the verbal anachronism) again.

So, watch as history continues to repeat itself. Behold the in(cream)inating evidence:

Photo credit: my absolutely insi(deli)ghtful friend Hande, founder of Vino Roma

Photo credit: my absolutely insi(deli)ghtful friend Hande, founder of Vino Roma

For those of you who speak Italian, I’ll be back with you in just a moment.

For those of you who don’t speak Italian, good. You’re the ones who can best decode this image without the distraction of the words which are the part that is causing trouble. Question for you: what does this ad say to you? I mean, really with the image of the woman, what’s going on there? You don’t have to comment on it. I’m just giving some “food” for thought.

Anyways, whether you speak Italian or not: this is a play on words for those of us who understand the Italian language well. There’s a famous phrase in the Italian language that says “Parla come mangi” which literally translates to “Speak like you eat.” In that link, there’s a thread of responses as to what this phrase actually means. I liked these responses the best [my comments in brackets]:

mah, penso perchè solitamente si associa chi mangia molto e di tutto a persone poco fini e viceversa..quindi quando una persona cerca di fare la colta e non lo è solitamente gli si risponde così.

Well, I think it’s because usually we associate someone who eats a lot and eats anything, with people who aren’t very refined, and vice versa…so, when a person tries to be all cultured and actually isn’t, we respond to him like that.

lo si dice solitamente alle persone semplici che mangiano in modo semplice e nn “raffinato”. e quando tirano fuori vocaboloni gli si dice parla cm mangi..cioè in modo semplice

You usually say it to “simple” people [“semplice” in Italian refers to someone who is sort of a naive or ingenue type person, or another good way to think of it would be something akin to “down-home“] who eat in a sort of unrefined way. And so when they pull out these big vocabulary words, we say, “Speak like you eat”…meaning, [talk] in a “simple” or down-home way.

perchè quando si mangia in genere si è spontanei…si è se stessi…presi dalla foga del cibo e ci si dimenticano le formalità! E’ un modo simpatico per chiedere di parlare semplice!

Because when you eat you’re usually spontaneous, meaning, just being yourself, so kind of losing yourself in the passion of eating [translated loosely here] you forget all formalities! It’s a nice way to ask someone to “dumb it down” a bit when they’re speaking [again translated quite loosely here].

Anyways, folks, you get the point now.

So, translate that application to the advertising slogan above, which the Philadelphia Cream Cheese people have been ever-so-clever to twist around to this:

“Eat like you love.”

I know.

I know.

But then, there’s the nail in the proverbial coffin. The tagline.

Yes, people. Don’t think you were getting out of here without a tagline. Oh, no. Nonononononoono!

The tagline reads: [Breathe, Shelley. Breathe!] “Choose pleasure.”


No–seriously, folks. But if you think I’m the only one who’s disgusted by this cheap pandering to the … well, God, I’m not even going to say “Italian male” because why generalize in the opposite direction, right? But, I mean, who else is their damn target audience supposed to be here? For fuck’s sake, people! But, no–once again, think again.

You see, not one to rest on my laurels, I went over to Philly’s Facebook page. And, surprise, surprise, folks–now, would you look at that? I think I just saw a pig with wings gracefully glide by my window. Because 1/3 of the following female comments (i.e. math majors, 33.3%) seem to approve of this advertising. Ugh.


First lady says, “Great job on the morally depraved ‘Eat Like You Love’ ad!!” I don’t know if this is supposed to be sarcasm or what, but … mah.

Second lady says, “The new Philadelphia [this is how they refer to Philly over here] ad ‘eat like you love’ is irritating! You should be ashamed of yourselves…I won’t be buying Philadelphia anymore.”

Third lady says, “You should be ashamed of yourselves for the advertising you do!!!! If you’re so convinced that women are really that stupid, then it’s probably best that you change your advertiser (who is certainly a man)!”

I dunno, folks. I mean, we’re not treading new ground here. However, if you notice in the comment thread of those posts, the two negative ones were followed up by this:

Segnalate anche voi allo Iap. Ci vuole un minuto e più persone lo faranno più speranza c’è che réclame così svilenti spariscano anche da noi come è successo in altri Paesi europei in seguito alle proteste. E a breve manderò una lettera allo Iap in proposito che potete sottoscrivere se credete, iscrivendovi al gruppo di uomini e donne che ho fondato

“You should send a report to Iap. [Iap is the “Istituto dell’Autodisciplina Pubblicitaria” which appears to be a sort of self-governing regulating board for the advertising industry. I don’t have time right now to go through and research it.] It only takes a minute and the more people who do it, the more hope there is that these types of ads will disappear also around here just as has happened in other European countries following protests. And soon I’ll be sending a letter to Iap regarding this ad, and you can sign it if you want, by joining the group of men and women that I’ve started here.” –Facebook user Annamaria Arlotta

That is all. I will now go back to the rest of my previously-scheduled day.

*walks away, shaking head and mumbling incoherently*

(Also related, in Italian: Bukkake Ipocrita, Il Piacere di Un Milione di Amici?)

And, postscript for my Italian-speaking friends: further proof that this is of course nothing new (this clip from Che Tempo Che Fa is from 2010), and proof that even if La Littizetto has one of THE most annoying voices on the planet, still, she is brilliantly humorous, simply BRILLIANT.


19 Responses to “Women In Italian Advertising”

  1. tbnc August 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    The first post is sarcastic as well, see the adjective “squallida”, tasteless…

    Nevertheless, I am sure and afraid that the percentage of women approving of the ad would be around that figure anyway, in a country wherein there are women voting for politicians going with underage prostitutes…

  2. houpisabroad August 18, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    My Roman colleague, a teacher with me in Rome, put together a very powerful Power Point documenting ads all around Rome. These billboards,, bus-stop ads, shop window adverts, etc, are unbelievably degrading, overtly sexual, sometime sexually violent, consistent with their message of hating the body you have and myriad ways to chop and transform it, all messages intending that one must do so directly and solely for the pleasure of men, (who are shown to own women’s bodies) and also for the general stomaching of you in public. The Italian tag lines are so covert yet overt and incredible in their tacky double entendre, as you highlight here. It is a heavy thing to bear walking around Rome, and I can imagine the burden, conscious or subconscious, for Roman women. I will gladly sign any letter you join or write to LAP. Keep up the good journalism!

  3. Nora August 18, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

    Check this website out:

    It is brilliant and adresses all the problems regarding sexism, homophopia, differences in gender equality in Italy.

    They put together a lot of material about this kind of advertising and also made a short movie about it:

    Here a photogallery of the worst sexist campaigns – like the Philadelphia’s one:

    It is just embarassing and very, very sad…

  4. Un'americana a Roma August 18, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    Grazie! In fact I was unsure. Sometimes as a non-native speaker I don’t “catch” the multiple sfumature that words carry. I deduced as much when I saw that one of the unapproving commenters had “liked” the first comment. Yes, I find particularly baffling the female population that backs Berlusconi. But that could get us into a whole other discussion about the media empire that he created to serve this exact type of image.

  5. Un'americana a Roma August 18, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

    Ironically I still have two photos in my camera that I took just the other day, of the type “what are they selling here?” because it wasn’t clear from the image, because all that was prominent was a provocative barely dressed woman. I don’t consider highlighting these instances prudish, repressed, or any of the other labels that people who disagree with me often fling around by way of defense of this practice. I actually would argue that it’s simply an example of what I’d call in the ad business a sort of “lazy creative.” Sex sells is for amateurs. Truly brilliant advertising doesn’t resort to such cheap ploys. Thank you for your comments. The letter to sign is at the link started by the woman on the Facebook page.

  6. Un'americana a Roma August 18, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

    Fantastic! I had no idea of these resources. You know better than anyone what I’m talking about when I say “lazy creative” … honestly. It is sad, both from a gender bias perspective but also simply from an artistic perspective as well. Just because it’s advertising doesn’t mean that it needs to be so cheap. Advertising can be elevated to an art form when done by gifted and talented professionals. This is just tawdry and aimed purposely to stir up scandal. “No publicity is bad publicity” or so the saying goes.

  7. Andy Troiani August 19, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    Great post, and comments. I want to speak seriously once, because this argument needs.

    I’m old enough to remember commercials program (“carosello”, the original) with good advertising and great actresses and actors. Slogans you will remember forever. And no body was shown for sell itself. I was kid when I watched those.
    After came 30 seconds commercials: fast, funny, winking. But no naked body yet.
    Everything changed when someone taken the commercial tv…

    I wrote about this, weeks ago. And a follower of yours told me I’m the usual communist against the king Bettolo the first.
    But the commercial televisions in Italy brought another way to see the woman. Another, but not a new one. They are calls “commercial” for a reason: you must sell the products! If the people buy your program can be on air. And products can be on tv if they wink to the people.
    As you know the king of bettolonia has just one thing in mind: THAT thing. And his televisions (as his advertising sell agency) have the same. And they push it into the people’s minds.
    I wanted to write many examples, but the video linked by Nora show us a lot of them.
    As you can see in the Nora’s video even the newspaper L’Unità (the “left” party newspaper) made a misogynist pubblicity.

    I am a graphic designer. I could be an art director in an agency but I don’t like the way to work there.
    Many decades ago we had a law known as “the common sense of decency” (“comune senso del pudore”), now we have not the common sense of dignity.

    (ps: I think there are some writing mistakes, I’m sorry)

  8. Andy Troiani August 19, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    I knew I forgot something… «One more thing» a great man said…

    All these misogynist advertising transform the way to view a woman: she is a sexual object.
    This is the reason why we have (in Italy) all those women assassinated, because men can’t imagine women can have their life, and thoughts.

    The rest of the world has “femminism”, we have “femminicidio”…

  9. Emanuele C. August 19, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    Honestly, the aim of the copywriter was this: the adv makes talks. Though, perhaps he made this adv without the sexual thought, who knows! And, last but not least, there are advs with more sexual stereotypes than this one, look at the end of the spot USA about FIAT 500 with national hero Paul Revere announcing sexual Italian women coming in town: pay attention at his telescope at the end, that’s a visible subliminal flash.

  10. Michelle August 19, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

    Oh my god Lettizetto *is* amazing. Thank you so much for sharing that clip. And I so appreciate the great links both in the post and in the comments! The creative laziness seems to echo the apathy marking leagues of Italians who can’t be fired from their jobs. It’s another one of those Italian paradoxes, since Italians have such high standards when it comes to art and craftsmanship. Why do they let the frat-boy ad jerks get away with this?

  11. Michelle August 19, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

    Sorry I wrote my comment before reading Andy and Emanuele’s comments, which do a lot to answer my question.

  12. Shelley Ruelle August 20, 2013 at 7:44 am #

    I am finding the discussion here very enriching. Goes to show: you folks, my dear, dear readers, are SMARTER THAN THE AVERAGE BARE!!! (thinly disguised Yogi reference for those of you who aren’t yet initiated into the wonderful world of wordplay.)

  13. Shelley Ruelle August 20, 2013 at 7:45 am #


  14. Shelley Ruelle August 20, 2013 at 7:47 am #

    Ok, Capoano, here I have to step in and say something. 😉 Do you *honestly* think that he didn’t have the slightest notion of sexuality when conCOCKting this ad? Hmmm. It’s a hard sell.
    I haven’t seen your example yet. Going to look at it now.

  15. Shelley Ruelle August 20, 2013 at 7:52 am #

    Michelle! I know! I want to BE her. Actually I sort of AM an American version of her, without the TV show and book deal part. (insert tongue in cheek, or, letter G) I find your comment about the paradox very interesting. This is life. There are always mirror opposites of everything, everywhere you look. That’s what makes the living interesting. 😉

  16. Andy Troiani August 20, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    Who what? «Who’s on first?»

  17. Andy Troiani August 20, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

    Ehmm… I was joking, but I really don’t understand “who” you mean.


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