Originally posted on Barilla Germany’s Facebook page, later posted on the company’s US page with the caption “Sauce for all”
Barilla’s president Guido Barilla is a big fan of “traditional families”, and is definitely NOT ok with those weird families in which gay men raise children, saying “if they don’t like it then they will not eat it (our pasta) and they will eat another brand.” Also, he’s apparently he’s unaware that women can be gay (or maybe he assumed that lesbians make their own pasta and/or don’t eat gluten?) Bad publicity for sure, and I’m definitely one of the people who will never buy that brand again. The following day competing pasta company Bertolli jumped into the fray with a great example of how to deal with one of your rivals messing up big time; release a cute positive ad, get free publicity, and reach customers around the world who are looking for a new pasta brand.
Some other thoughts: This is a great illustration of how the internet has changed how businesses present themselves and the standards they’re held to. The comment was originally part of an Italian radio interview, and I have to imagine that in Italy (as in much of America) his viewpoints are unremarkable to many people. Before the age of the internet and social media the story would probably have died a quiet death, or at least only caused a kerfuffle in Italy. Not in 2013 though. (The times referenced are EST.) Barilla’s comments (and subsequent non-apology) were picked up by UPI and other sources mid-morning on September 26th. From there the story spread to Twitter where the hastag #BoycottBarilla quickly gained steam, to LGBT focused blogs like TowleRoad, Joe My God, and Pink News, and to news sites and stories all over the web from HuffPo to USA Today. Many of those stories broke before noon the same day!
Bertolli’s response was created, posted, and then spread just as quickly. The cute image above was posted on Bertolli Germany’s Facebook feed sometime on the 27th, was spreading across the web by noon, and was shared on their US Facebook page on the 28th. Bertolli has created explicitly gay-friends ads in the past, but this image was created by Barilla’s German social-media agency Orca im Hafen specifically as a response to the Barilla controversy. I’ve had dance rehearsals that were longer than the time it took to create, proof, approve, and post their ad! It’s possible, of course, that they were inspired by this spoof ad, which the company it was attributed to later denied involvement with. (Although mostly in Italian.) Either way, a nice catch by the marketing and social media team, and I’m happy that this catch was made by (and will benefit) a company with a history of gay-positive advertising.