One of things I have noticed is that when hanging with a group of friends sooner or later the conversation turns to our mediated lives through television. Without fail, if the company is worth its salt, memories of Larry from Three’s Company, Rerun from What’s happening!!, or even Tootie from The Facts of Life will make there way into the conversation. I have also noticed that if we talk about anything other than Happy Days, the conversation quickly become inaccessible to Antonella, who was born and raised in Italia (woot).
I think this may have changed a bit recently with the advent of media imperialism and cable television, for many of my Italian friends have been recommending US TV shows that I have yet to see, most notably The Shield. I make no excuses for the current state of Italian television or film, for overall it is a god awful series of operatic melodramas. This wasn’t always the case however, and recently I have been introduced to a rich cultural resource that just about every Italian of the network age (translated as RAI) of television treasures: Carosello. Mark Tungate’s article “Are British ads still the best?” describes this Italian advertising tradition as follows:
Their [the Italians] advertising was permanently marked by something called Carosello – the carousel – which was a fixed ten- minute advertising slot screened every day at around 8.45pm from the late 1950s until the mid 1970s. Thanks to a government edict, it had to provide sponsored entertainment as opposed to a hard sell. And because kids loved watching Carosello just before bedtime, Italian advertising began to resemble kiddies’ TV.
The exact dates of the Carosello was from 1957-1977 and his brief overview highlights two fascinating points about this form of advertising:
- These ads seldom highlight the actual product they are pushing thanks to government intervention (further highlighting a point made in a comment on Abject Learning by Jon Beasley-Murray, namely that ads don’t work, or at least in this case Italian ads).
- These ads shaped the nightly routine and sleeping habits for at least two generations of Italian children. Antonella has talked to me about the Caroselli on many occasions, but having no access to this culture before YouTube I was very much in the dark.
Well, I have seen the light, and now you can too. Below are a few outlandish examples of how little these commercials have to do with the product they are selling. The first two are straightforward and need no explanation, the third (which is not subtitled Mojiti is no longer around) features the master comic Totò who is featured in his last role before his death as a cashier in a bank that is being robbed (this commercial is selling broth of all things!).
So, enjoy an Italian tradition that is not culinary.