Does This Video Change The Way You See Italy?

Similarly to a turtle that’s stuck on it’s back, Italy is desperately flailing to get to it’s feet and recover from it’s economic, political, and social setbacks. Their solution? This video, titled, “Italy, The Extraordinary Commonplace.” I actually don’t even know what that means. Does anyone know what that means? The video is in English, and aims to clean the soiled reputation of a once great nation.

Italy is trying to rebrand itself.

The video has gotten mixed reviews but a lot of them are good. ABC recently wrote a story titled, “Italy Promo Gets Thumbs Up For Turning Stereotypes Around.”

The video was created by The Ministry Of Economic Development. So far the YouTube video has been viewed over 390,000 times. It’s nice to see that Italy has finally found a way to market itself differently and is trying to change it’s image in hopes of increasing interest from foreign investors. At the very least I can say that it’s great that Italy has possibly found a way to market itself to the world. You know what they say? It’s all about marketing. Once they figure that out, they might be able to fix the country.

Part of me wishes that I found the video as inspiring as other people. The problem is that I work in marketing (Yes, during the day I’m a copywriter for an SAS company. I market to people, it’s what I do). The video just made me giggle and roll my eyes.

I get the point, Italy has become known, not for its craftsmanship, but rather for being a country of lazy, ass-backwards mommy boys who avoid responsibility at all cost and party hard into their fifties. Italy’s reputation for pasta, booze, and easy sex with overly willing (and often married) Italian men, has made it a favorite destination for the recently divorced and 20-30 somethings looking for a good time or an exciting change of pace.

Nobody says “Italy” when asked the question: Who is the most productive country in Europe. Nobody moves to Italy for “better job opportunities,” or to “enhance their career,” unless they’re job of choice is to sell pasta or wine. People move to Italy for what they think will be a relaxed and easily life free of the stress that comes from living in a country that commands productivity and work ethic (like the US, which kills it’s citizens with stress and mental illness).

It’s sad. It’s sad because Italy is a lot more than spaghetti. The point of the video was to dispel the bad image and replace it with a new one which is super smart but…It did not work for me.

Here’s why:

1) Denial is never a smart way to go. I found the idea that they were trying to bury their “undesirable traits” beneath the “desirable” ones kind of silly.
2) There were no connections between any of the points. It was confusing as hell.

The video begins with:

“PIZZA MAKERS? Italy is a world leader in the creation of infrastructures-1000 construction sites in 90 countries.”

Uh-huh…go on…

Those two things have nothing to do with each other at all. Also, why do either of those things need to be mutually exclusive? And, what’s the point in downplaying that make pizza makers?


Here’s what a US version of that video would look like:

A country of fat asses?
The US is really good at aeronautics and has a lot of spaceships.

WHAT THE SHIT!? Exactly.

It goes on to include: “Party Addicts, Gesticulators, and Latin Lovers?” among the other “bad” stereotypes they’re trying to bury under more desirable traits like “Engineering, biomedics, etc.”

Also, Gesticulators? Why is that in there? Am I the only person that thinks of a dance group from the 70’s.

It’s a brilliant concept but it only got to second or third base. It missed a home-run by even having the “stereotypes in there in the first place. If you’re going to have them, then just embrace them. It’s such a bad idea to try and dispel stereotypes by connecting two completely different concepts together. “I am not an asshole. Jolly Ranchers are often cherry flavored.”

Here’s what I wish they would have done:

Left out the stereotypes or Embraced all of them. Yes, Italy is a country of pizza makers, and people who party into old age, yes they’re are “latin lovers”, yes, family is important to many of them, yes, yes, and…? ALSO, Italy is creative, brilliant, innovative, professional. ITALY HAS IT ALL. ITALY HAS IT ALL AND THEN SOME, BITCHES!

I would have liked to see this: “Work. Play. Thrive: Italy, where everything is possible.”

That rings a lot stronger to me than, “Take us seriously! We’re really not mommies boys! Look, we have architects!”

Yes, I know that many of you loved the video. It’s not that I don’t agree that it’s a step in the right direction. I just think it could have been better and more effective. And hey, they’re trying to target foreigners so I’m interested in what foreign people think of the video? Are you totally in awe of Italy’s badassery now? Or did the video also confuse you a little?

What did you guys think? Did Italy get it right or not?

39 thoughts on “Does This Video Change The Way You See Italy?

  1. Since you invited comments. . . First: I currently live in Los Angeles, though I’ve lived in Italy for five years, Israel for two, India for six, and Australia for six. I’ve seen firsthand, as you have, the discrepancy between the daily life in a country and its tourist or other “board” concocting stories about their country. I agree with all of your points, especially: who is it for? I can’t imagine any target audience taking it seriously. The title (Italy: the Extraordinary Commonplace) is too conceptual for it to grab the heart, and too stilted to grab the mind. The bullet points in the piece do not reflect what those trickle down effects are for the average Italian. It would be similar to the US producing a video, saying “We have the highest number of billionaires; they highest paid athletes and actors in the world, and the richest CEOs.” Oh oh, we also have the highest rate of incarceration in the world; 50 million Americans live in food insecure households, etc. The video, in contrast to the Italian culture itself, has no emotion, no feeling, no real people. It’s a series of memes, with graphics from an image bank. The video does not seem to have a coherent purpose or call to action. Well, I suppose that’s enough from me. Except to say that as a lover of Italian culture, I’m sad this is what they came up with.

  2. When I think of a country, I couldn’t care less about their pharmaceuticals, or their latest techy gadgets, or boring science. I’m interested in what’s unique, original, expressive, spiritual. Their efforts at exploration and discovery, their protection of the natural world and environment, and their efforts at creating a sustainable life style, healthy foods, and organic farming practices. NOT copying the United States and the rest of the unoriginal, linear thinking modern world. One of the dangers of modern life and technology is that it makes it easier for everyone to copy each other and to lose their unique identity and culture. This uniqueness is what made the nations of the past so amazing, creative, awe-inspiring, etc. Each country created its “own thing,” rather like an individual who refuses to follow the popular fad styles and instead creates their own – something good and wonderful. Italy needs to focus on protecting that which makes it the beautiful, special country that it is – nature, wildlife, its culture, its amazing architecture, it’s history, its art etc. It can keep growing with these things, especially architecture and art. It can become a role-model for the rest of the world on how to “progress” without destroying that which makes your nation beautiful – something no other nation has yet achieved as they plunder natural resources, destroy the earth, animals and plants.
    I would be FAR more interested in “investing” in Italy if it followed these suggestions rather than trying to be just like all the other dreary, modern nations with their depressing architecture, mostly useless technology, and destruction of beautiful natural areas through over-development, chemicals, over-grazing, GMO’s, too many roads, traffic, etc etc. The reason Venice is so popular is mostly due to the fact that cars are not allowed to drive through it. What a concept!!! It’s a brilliant, unique idea – a city without traffic, where people can walk about without pollution and without the usual city stress, despite its crowds. This is the kind of innovation and brilliant idea mode that Italy needs to keep coming up with before it loses its identity like most other places. Can you imagine being able to go back to the Paris of the 1800’s-early 1900’s? Today it is barely recognizable as the romantic, relaxing, beautiful, fine city it once was. Why does this need to happen? It doesn’t.

    • Lim, i have to agree. I wish they also talked about the progress they are making to not only match other countries, but also to surpass them. To be a global player they also need to address sustainability, social consciousness, etc. They ignored all of that.

  3. Come on, now. Where is the mafia reference? Isn’t that the biggest preconception that foreigners have about Italians?

    This video is OK, but could have been much better. First, I don’t think that they had the copy proofread by a native English speaker. At least I hope that an native English speaker did not green light “The Extraordinary Commonplace.” I really don’t know what that means. And what exactly is “the creation of infrastructures?”

    I think they could have done much better by tying the past to the present, instead of trying to run away from the past. In other words, show how traditional Italian strengths/passions have inspired its current business successes. Like showing how the traditional passion for quality food has turned the country into a leading exporter of food products. Or how the Italian love of fashion has launched so many internationally-recognized fashion designers and manufacturers. What this video presents as misconceptions about Italians are actually many of the qualities that foreigners admire about Italians. That admiration should be leveraged in their next, better video…

  4. My wife is Italian full blood. Family full blood Calabria. Me, I’m her American husband that “stole” her to America. However, we return to Italy every year to visit FAMILY. Now to specifics, first, in southern Italy, you either join the mafia to work, have a GREAT skill, or leave. It’s been that way for a LONG time. The economy sucks!!!! All my beautiful young relatives have had to move to other countries to make a living. One is a dental tech, one an electrician, Now our engineer and his PH.D educated girlfriend feel they must leave Italy to make a living.
    WTF!!!! Italy is losing its best and brightest due to its incomptance.
    I cry for Italy. Pray that the government will come to its senses.
    Me, Master degree health care admin…, wife, B.A. In languages. Unemployable in Italy. Doing great in USA.

    • Marti!!! There you are! I was just thinking about you the other day! I have t seen you around for a bit. Yes, its true, almost all of our friends have leeft Italy for better opportunities elsewhere. Its sad. And even sadder is that I think this video is intended to fix that but in my opinion they didnt nail the delivery of the message. Lets hope, for the future of italy, that they can do better on the next round…

  5. Yes, it’s all over the place. Doesn’t hang together or build to any clear conclusion or ending. However, that’s kind of Italian isn’t it?

  6. Wow, I didn’t think it was near as bad as y’all did. I actually thought it was a smart play on the stereotypes to start with the picture and then show that it wasn’t what was originally implied. But then again, I’m a tax accountant so I don’t know a whole lot about advertising or marketing.

    I will say that I agree that it seemed more like the branding messaging rather than having a call to action. Kind of like the polar bear commercials for Coca-Cola over the winter time, where you’re just intended to feel good about the product. I would expect a follow-up that does address the points you make in your post and they definitely need to address the stereotype of being overly bureaucratic. To me, that’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think about Italy from a business perspective, I even think this stereotype trumps wine and pasta.

  7. I didn’t analyze nor give the video much thought when I watched it. I enjoyed it and saw a modern day Italy, compared to a rustic country that I thought existed. You nailed it when you said “…a relaxed and easily life free of the stress…” I always pictured Italy as being that.

  8. I tend to agree. I don’t think the video hurt, but I am not sure it really helps either. I think the English could have been much better if a native speaker had written the text, this just feels like Google Translate. I also agree with you, embrace the stereotypes and show how much more than just those Italy is. Not quite a swing and a miss, maybe a bloop single.

  9. My favorite part of this entire video was the ad they played before… Specifically a grown Italian man at the grocery store looking for dishwashing tablets while his overly protective mother is yelling at him on the cell phone about what to get… And then she just ends up going to the grocery store with him. #MommyBoy

  10. Reblogged this on solo cose belle and commented:
    Another great post from Living in Italy. Moving to Italy. Loving in Italy. Laughing in Italy. My question is, who is the target market? Other than YouTube, where has this been published? The call to action is definitely missing, as well as the native-English proofreader who should have looked this over before going live.

    Rather than downplaying the stereotypes that sure won’t be forgotten by the world any time soon, I agree that they should have turned these into Italy’s strengths, and THEN carried on to talk about Italy’s more academic and technical conquests.

    Then again, I’m very unclear on who the video was intended for – Tourists? Students? Government diplomats? BOH! Knowing this will of course change the direction and objectives of the project.

  11. Couldn’t agree more with your assessment of this video in your blog post. And I agree with all of the points raised by those who commented on how thoroughly the video missed its mark (not to mention the stilted language, the misrepresented facts and the movie set-like clinical scenes, especially the segment with the pasta!). When I raised these points in an IRG Facebook post, someone told me I thoroughly missed the video’s message. No, I got it. I just thought it was ridiculous on so many levels.

  12. Well it’s not quite as bad as I expected after reading the reviews. I think if you are not as close to Italy (as some of us are when you’re in a relationship with one of the lovely natives) then you will probably think it’s great. When you spend a lot of time there you notice all the non-holiday type stuff some of which is still good but unheard of and some which stops you moving there permanently.
    There are some great points about what Italy is doing business wise, I’m not sure the general public would be aware of these stats, all of which are things to be proud of but so much more is left out. Was this created in Italy? If so be more proud than this, where is the passion? It’s a very polite bragging, more English in character than Italian. Don’t apologise for gesticulating and for all the traits that make Italians unique!
    The stereotypes are interesting too, like all countries, how you think you are perceived by the rest of the world is not always true. I have only ever heard Italians call themselves ‘pizza makers’. As for partying hard we think this of Berlusconi but not Italians in general. Have you ever seen drunk Italians? It’s quite rare they tend to nurse one glass of wine all night, especially the women which is very frustrating for me! Or they tell you they are drunk but they can still stand and string a sentence together.
    Overall as someone else has said it’s as if it’s been made in the conservative mould they think would suit the US or UK audience.
    Generally I find it a bit sad as it’s such an amazing country and yet all our Italian friends are moving out of the country because there are no jobs, if you’re made redundant you can’t reinvent yourself the way you can in other places and they feel that there are fewer opportunities for their children, too much narrow-mindedness. These things are all true but it doesn’t stop my Husband and I asking ourselves if we should just risk it and go back anyway because… there really is no where quite like it🙂

    • Yes definitely, I agree. Except for the drunk thing, I’ve seen many a drunk Italians. Haha. They’re quite known for partying well into their fifties. In the south there is really a lot of drinking. In Florence, all of our Florentine friends get drunk and go out. Maybe the drinking is less in other areas? I’ve heard there is less drinking in smaller cities in the north…

      • Damn I’m hanging out with the wrong ones!🙂 I think maybe it’s more a northern thing then, they are especially disgusted by parents getting drunk. My uncle is the only drunken Italian in the family but they all whisper that it’s because he’s venetian as if this should explain it!?

      • Haha really? In my husband’s home town it’s pretty common to see a bunch of 50-somethings eating and drinking a lot together. Not uncommon in Florence either. I do have friends in Milan and Brescia who say the same thing about drinking, that it’s “trashy,” and nobody does it.

  13. Actions speak louder than words. The video provides another view of Italians, also true, but not what people observe when they come here on vacation. Much the same could be said about the U.S. Europeans view Americans as warmongers and racists. It’s not the whole truth, but it’s certainly partially true.

  14. I pretty much agree with everything said here. I appreciate the creators trying to get away from (or perhaps expand from) the Italian stereotypes, but it’s some of those stereotypes that, in part, endear Italy to those of us who love it. With the exception of the infamous bureaucracy, of course. We could ALL do without that! A swing and a miss, but a fair attempt.

  15. I think I like the idea that they’re trying to rebrand the country and creative a new name for themselves, but I was confused. I agree that it started off strangely ( that “Pizza Makers?” bit) and then went on to talk about construction, I actually had to pause it and read a little bit of what you had written to understand what exactly was going on here. The points aren’t, by any means, connected and create confusion. I think the idea of rebranding could have been used in a better way. …and what’s up with the video’s name?

    • I have no idea what’s going on with the title. It’s definitely not English from North America. It’s almost as if they Google translated the title. It makes zero sense to me.

      • It reminds me of how Italians speak to eachother when they’re speaking in English . . . they seem to understand the nonsensical English phrases between themselves but that’s the only audience that really “gets them.” I’ve been privy to this a number of times and firstly wonder why they don’t just speak Italian amongst themselves and then realise it’s for my benefit (native English speaker) . .. they’re weird attempt at showing off and/or La Bella Figura perhaps???

  16. It seems to me that this ad is really intended for Italians thinking of leaving Italy. It’s the only audience I can think of that this would be most relevant for. Also, if it was really being pitched for an international audience, surely they would have had native English speakers proof it and tell them how absurd so much of the phrasing is!

  17. I liked the video very much…And it played on opposite meanings. Example: Football fanatics: then showed
    people attending an opera, meaning there is more to Italy than football fanatics. I understood what they were saying and showing. I think abstractly anyway so it made sense to me. Maybe you need to be a little artistic to
    see the connections. I liked the video and did learn a few things.

  18. Absolutely the worst persuasion technique! I agree, if you are going to mention the stereotypes, just embrace them! There is truth in many stereotypes… and it’s not like PIZZA MAKER is a bad thing?
    Do you know who the audience the video is for, and who the producers are? Who paid for the video? So weird.

  19. Ciao ! I didn’t hate the video but I do agree with you that its a step in the right direction. It just touched on the industries in Italy – you would need a 2 hour video for all of it – everyone knows about Ferrari, Maserati, Fiat, but many people have no idea what Mapei SpA is ( I work for them in the US) the largest manufacturer of ceramic tile and floor covering setting materials in the world, based in Milano. I agree Italy has it all- we love it so much we hope to retire there in a few years.

  20. I enjoyed the video, however, it should have combined pizza makers and food enthusiast’s into the same slide (for a lack of a better term) and at that point turned the seriousness in to a laugh… “Pizza makers…. food enthusiasts? …. OK you got us there… in fact we do it so good that we’re holding a expo on how to feed the world”.

  21. Curious….the things I love about Italy, the joy of life, the value of people over things, the food were diminished or devalued in the video. Could Italy stand a revamping, okay; does the video do that? It tries…and it reminds me of the many Italians I know who work looong days, who commit to innovation and professionalism, who view themselves seriously. So it is a complex world, as all worlds are, which includes the yin and the yang. Does the video make we want to invest in Italy? Not especially….I’d stay in the States.

  22. Missed the mark for me. Was it supposed to be an ad for the upcoming Expo in Milano? I did learn a few interesting things, but it was not necessary to ‘snobbare’ things we love about Italy to highlight these. The title makes no sense at all-it’s like whoever came up with it went to the ‘Hello Kitty t-shirt’ school of English. And ‘gesticulating’? Va bene…I’ll stop now!

  23. The video isn’t getting rave reviews here, but I thought it was a gallant attempt to reframe the minds of visitors from around the world. Especially those visitors who will arrive for The 2015 World’s Fair in Milan this year. As most of you know the differences between the economy and culture in northern italy and southern Italy are very different. So different in fact, that there are political parties who want to split the country down the middle. Making it a sort of cute bootie… instead of the iconic tall boot of today.

    People in Milan, as much as they fit certain Italian stereotypes are also a very hard working people. The region of Lombardy alone, accounts for 20% of the entire country’s economy. I was surprised my first stint in Milan to see so many corporate parks and buildings, outside of the downtown area. Besides the traditional 6 weeks vacation time, and various other holidays, Milanese people in general work WELL over 40 hours a week. And, let’s be honest… Americans will always be jealous of the vacation time. I think we could learn something there about life balance and the importance of family from them.

    My point here being. We have to evaluate the video based on what it is trying to do. It is trying to give the world a new perception of Northern Italy for the World’s Fair. I think the video does a fine job of showcasing the northern achievements and workforce. It also, acknowledges the stereotypes spread throughout the world influenced by the perception of southern Italian immigrants. I myself come from a southern Italian immigrant family. Many of my general Italian stereotypes are broken as I spend more and more time in northern Italy.

    It is, after all, why so many southern Italian young people move north in hopes of finding education and jobs, and then visit the south to bring back enough food from their mother’s to last them until their next visit🙂

    So good job video. Making us question our current perception and generalization of the entire Italian culture.

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