How to communicate genius: design and advertising in Italy during the economic boom | intOndo
13.01.2022

Storytelling

How to communicate genius: design and advertising in Italy during the economic boom

These are the years of Italian entrepreneurship, of industrial design, television and advertising: learn how consumption and attitudes evolved in Italy during the 60s and 70s.

In the post-war period, new generations decided to abandon the countryside in favour of the cities, improving their economic conditions. New needs made their way into Italians' lives and in this new dimension of well-being, advertising played a fundamental role. We are in the early days, when mass consumtion was still a distant problem and buyers aim was to get their first glitzy model of household appliance advertised on the Carosello (the first Italian tv advertising format). 

New entrepreneurial models were emerging and the Made in Italy was successfully exported by newly born brands such as Poltronova, Flos and Gavina, as weel as by other companies that already existed  such as Olivetti and Cassina

These new entrepreneurs were preparing to revolutionise Italian design, but the means to publicise their works were insufficient or inadequate. In Italy at the time, there were only two types of advertising agencies: local ones, disrupted by the war and linked to outdated approches, and those of the large American multinationals that used increasingly innovative marketing strategies. It is not difficult to imagine which one would prevail. 

Following the American model, a new way of advertising was born in Italy: illustrations gave way to modern photography, and slogans became simpler and more effective, or even disappear altogether, as in the case of Gio Ponti's Superleggera. Produced by Cassina and presented in 1955, the Superleggera imposed itself with its simplicity and, to advertise it the company chose a simple photograph, without slogans: a child holding it up with one hand. The message was clear and obvious, the communication direct and unequivocal. A new way of advertising was born. 

The role of graphic designers, photographers and illustrators was enriched with a strong component of experimentation. New materials such as plastics or resins became prominent and were largely used promotional gadgets (such as branded trays or ashtrays). The relationship with the media also changed. In Italy, from 1957 to 1977, advertising arrived on television with Carosello, a programme consisting of a series of comic sketches with an advertising message attached, directed like a real movies, by well known directors such as Sergio Leone, Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini and many others. 

For some, experimenting with advertising was an unwritten obligation. For example, teh 1960s Poltronova, with its anarchic objects and complex, unique style, could certainly not adopt traditional advertising styles. In its catalogues we find original and amusing seats, such as the Joe armchair which is advertised by means of a girl lying down comfortably, in eccentric positions for the time, to show the adaptability of the armchair and its endless seating possibilities. Or the ad for the Ultrafragola mirror, which creates an interesting parallelism between the mirror's undulating motion and the wavy hair of a girl photographed from behind. 

These solutions tell us that advertising in the 60s and 70s sterted to get closer to people, to their needs and to everyday life, by using formats in which Italians could naturally recognise themselves. After all the best advertising is that that speaks the language of its time.