A single drop of olive oil, falling from the spoon where a woman poured it from a cruet to dress her salad, turns the wooden floor into a green field where olive trees grow, children play and farmers are hand-picking the olives, gently smiling.
This is the opening scene of the commercial directed by Italian director and actor Silvio Muccino to promote ‘Made in Italy’ food products.
Since December 9, and until Spring 2016, when the campaign is planned to end, the ad will be broadcast on TV channels in Texas, Illinois, New York and California. Over the holiday season, it will be played on one of the huge billboards in New York’s Times Square.
More scenes include cheese, dried and fresh pasta and cured meats: by buying and eating Italian food, the characters are taken to the places where those ‘extraordinary products’ are born. The ad’s final catchphrase says, “We turn the best ingredients into extraordinary products.”
The evocative commercial is part of a promotional campaign to support national agricultural produce by ICE, the Italian Trade Promotion Agency, on behalf of the Ministry of Economic Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies.
With an overall budget of €50 million to be invested in communication and trade initiatives, it is the biggest campaign ever realized to promote Italian-made products in the US. The initiative will also involve also trade agreements with the US large-scale retailers, the participation in trade fairs and events and networking meetings.
Besides Muccino’s ad, the campaign by the Brand Portal agency, also contemplates a wider multi-channel communication campaign to help American consumers identify Italian-made foods on the shelves, marked by the distinctive sign of a “bitten” Italian flag and the motto, “The extraordinary Italian taste.”
Muccino’s video, based on a script by Marco Gucciardi and his staff at Brand Portal, proved popular in the first few days of its broadcast, and it garnered nearly a half-million views after the director shared it on his Facebook page. A previous post announcing the release of the ad reached similar figures.
Despite the director’s and scriptwriters’ ability to engage viewers with Italian products and atmospheres, some criticism arose from Italian audiences and press. Many blamed the excessive expenses for the realization of the video, but Silvio Muccino replied that neither he nor the production company got any fee for it.
Italian journalist Attilio Barbieri said on his website, Italia In Prima Pagina, that he appreciated the video and the initiative to contrast the €60 billion market for counterfeit Italian products around the world, but he criticized the lack of a unique and distinctive label to be put on individual products (in compliance with the European Union’s regulations), but only on shelves and points of sale.
Moreover, in Barbieri’s view, the commercial reaches its goal to represent the charms of Italy as a “food heaven,” but it does not jive with reality, since the food industry standardization has taken over ancient crafts and product authenticity, in his view.
Of course, there are still many, small and passionate Italian craft producers like the ones depicted by Muccino — and olive oil producers are among them — but the traditions of local food-making are impeded by the inevitable demands of a globalized market, and their honesty and transparency are not always backed up by bigger competitors and by the rest of the supply chain.
Searching for their products, and choosing them, is a good way to support Italian craftsmen and women, especially when you can’t visit them in person and experience what the commercial effectively shows.