Advertising In Italy Compared to the USA

By Hayley Pawsey

Being a marketing and art major, I always have my eye out for billboards and advertisements. Living and traveling through Italy for the past five weeks has given me the chance to understand how products and services are advertised differently in a new culture. 

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Valentino, Versace, Gucci, Fendi, Giorgio Armani, and Prada are all made in Italy. ‘Made in Italy’ is the stamp of approval as the world admires Italian quality products. Italy’s products are a mix of history, tradition, passion, and skill. The creativity, quality, and lifestyle that are reflected in the ‘Made in Italy” products alter the way these products and services are advertised and marketed to the Italian public. These Italian promotional strategies are very different compared to United States marketing strategies.

Italians prefer Italian brands because they have national pride (the little national pride that they have) for their companies that have roots in Italy. From what I have noticed, Italian advertisements are direct versus the storytelling method as seen in the United States. Direct strategies are focused on the core selling points and cultural aspects of the product or service. Brand storytelling is using a narrative to connect your brand to customers, with a focus on linking what you stand for to the values you share with your customers. Italian strategies are direct and focus on quality products and culture rather than being concerned about promotions. 

For example, the Italian perfume brand, Dolce Rosa Excelsa, the advertisement was completely tailored to the Italian culture. The television commercial for Dolce Rosa Excelsa was filmed at the beautiful Villa Valguarnera di Bagheria in Sicily. The use of this location showcases the single story of Italy being a romantic country. The roles the actors play also highlight the traditional Catholic family roles as Italy has a rich history with the Catholic church and that belief system. The men are working hard to renovate the house and in doing so uncovering beautiful artworks. By uncovering paintings, Dolce Rosa Excelsa is also highlighting the lavish art history Italy holds, especially from the Renaissance time period that Italians are very proud of. The Italian woman featured, Sophia Loren, is busy cooking a traditional Italian meal, another single story of Italian cuisine. Loren is shown using the freshest ingredients and smiling after tasting her delicious sauce.

There is also the presence of Loren taking care of the men. This focuses on the Italian tradition and culture aspect of family matters. Loren is the mother figure that actually does all the hard work and makes all the decisions about what needs to get done. The men are the male children figures in the family that are spoiled and never learn how to complete efficiently and Loren is watching over them. Sophia Loren is specifically used in this commercial to showcase the Italian idea of Bella Figura. Loren has the Mediterranean ideals of beauty including the dark features, long legs, and shapely figure. 

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The Dolce Rosa Excelsa television commercial has an overarching theme of being classy, elegant, and natural, which is connected to the idea of Bella Figura. Bella Figura goes beyond image, visual beauty and presentation also is defined by behavior. Only at the end of the commercial, does one realize it is a perfume that is being advertised. 

After viewing this commercial in class and others similar, I decided to compare it to popular perfume advertisements in the United States, focusing on the differences between marketing strategies between the diverse cultures. 

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Calvin Klein I AM A WOMEN campaign

The commercials in the United States are more centered around storytelling to make the viewer feel as they are the one in the video and therefore need the product. For example, the Calvin Klein perfume campaign, I AM WOMEN, advertisements are all around the slogan, “The New Fragrance for Us.” Using the inclusive language “us” alone already makes the viewer more connected to the commercial.

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The advert also immediately alerts the viewer what they are being advertised. The next phrase was spoken by a famous actress in the United States, stating “You can be whatever type of women you want to be.” The use of this phrase embodies the narrative of allowing the viewer to embrace the fact that if she uses this Calvin Klein perfume, then she can become whatever type of woman she wants to be. 

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Street Advertisements on the Way to School

Throughout my five weeks in Italy, I spent lots of time driving from region to region on a bus with my classmates and walking from my apartment to class. Every time I left the apartment, I paid special attention to the advertisement billboards along the roadside. I found the advertising along the roadside to be very different. In Colorado, almost every few meters there will be another massive billboard advertising what is at the next exit or promoting the rental of an RV. The advertising on the roadside leaving Rome consisted of much smaller billboards and more spaced out. There would be about three or four billboards right next to each other and then nothing for a while. Movie promotions and specific items to buy also seemed more advertised than they are in the United States. The style of advertising was also different because the strategies are tailored to the region they are presented in. In Colorado, the marketing strategies are tailored to the single story of Colorado of being adventurous, while in Rome they seem to be more elegant and reminders of history. The billboards also did not seem to be as “in your face” as they are presented in the United States along the roadside. 

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Advertisements in the Streets of Rome

Walking to class, I pass by outdoor advertisements that follow a variety of different advertising strategies. These are temporary billboards that are glued up on designated areas. From looking at these adverts, they do not seem in the best condition and do not have a large budget. This style of promotion reminds me of the film Bicycle Thieves (1948), a film we watched excerpts of in Don Carlo’s class, and the main character’s job is to post the adverts. It seems as though the technology has not changed since this film. They look like someone put in half the effort to display these. You can see the weather damage and the adverts underneath the current ones. You would not see this type of outdoor marketing in Fort Collins or most other cities in the United States. The outdoor marketing has moved towards digital billboards or clean billboards. I am not sure if these adverts I see on the way to school are more prominent in more rural areas or if they are also present in the cities in Italy. 

The main differences in these advertisements that I noticed included the cultural core aspects. Italian advertisements embody the core culture that family matters, they have special relationships, they are what they wear and how they present themselves. The United States advertisements are less rooted in their core values and more surrounding the future and how the product can change the life of the audience. 

About the Author

Hayley Pawsey is going into her junior year at Colorado State University studying Business, Marketing, and Art Integrated Visual Studies. She wants to pursue a career in international marketing, therefore, this program was ideal. Hayley was able to continue bridging cultures as she is a local in Australia, Belgium, and California and has been able to appreciate the Italian culture. She has always been passionate about traveling and her experience abroad has only enhanced her desire for exploration. 


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