Stereotypes are good for business : how the world uses Italy to sell

24 November 2015

Every country of the world has its own identity and characteristics. That is what differentiates them from each other. For example, France is famous for fashion, Germany for their cars, Brazil for football, Italy for pastas and pizzas etc. But sometimes, some stereotypes emerge from these differences and peculiarities, and a country can be seen by the other ones only through them.

In the world of advertising, things are not really different. When you want to depict a country in an ad, clichés are often omnipresent to make sure that it will be easily recognizable. All of the advertisements introduced here will show that stereotypes can be used in different purposes. In this article we will focus on the Italian stereotypes.

Foreign advertising : using Italian stereotypes to sell their own products

Fiat 500

In this three-minute advertisement, an average American couple decides to buy a Fiat 500 and the seller tells them that with their purchase, an Italian family is also included in the back of the car. At the beginning, they are a little bothered because they are very loud and they argue, but throughout the days, they become friends, start speaking Italian and dress like them. At the end, the family leaves and the couple has become perfect Italians.

This ad is all about Italian clichés ; the Italian family arguing and gossiping about the other family members, the protective mother, the son passionate about fashion and football who makes romantic declarations of love etc.


In the new ad for Nastro Azzurro beer, the scene takes place on the beach, a lot of good-looking boys and girls wearing swimsuits, are having fun together. They are all happy and enjoy their party drinking some Nastro Azzurro beer.

This ad wants to show another stereotype of Italy ; la dolce vita. People are young, beautiful, having fun, happy with their life, there is no stress, they are only enjoying and it is in particular, thanks to the beer. With this ad, they suggest that people can taste the dolce vita if they buy this beer. Peroni wants them to dream and escape, to thirst for Italy. Once again, the goal is to rely on the Italian value instead of relying on the product itself.

Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut is an American brand but everybody knows that pizzas are originally from Italy. That is why in this ad, Pizza hut decides to go to Italy to introduce their new pizzas to Italian “experts”. We are in a village with elderly people who don’t really want to taste them. They are very conservative and don’t seem to appreciate change. Not only they discover new pizzas but it also seems that it is the first time they see smartphones, jeggings and listen to electronic music.

Here, this ad is also full of stereotypes. Italy represents the “old world” with outdated pizzas and Pizza Hut the new world expert. The Pizza Hut one seems to be representing progress while Italian people are depicted as extremely conservative – almost narrow-minded. These people seem to be uncommunicative and refuse modernity. On Youtube, we can find a lot of comments from Italian people who consider this video as offensive because Pizza Hut fuels the stereotypes that the world already has about Italy, questioning their expertise in pizza and claiming that they do better.


In this ad, a grand mother decides to cook chicken for her family. Her husband seems surprised but she says she wants to try something new. She pretends that she is using a new recipe from her cookbook but in fact she uses products from Dolmio’s brand. At the end, all her family is delighted and happy to have tried something new.

This ad looks quite like the Pizza Hut one. It is about the typical Italian grand mother who changes her habits ; she does not cook her own recipes but she uses Dolmio instead. In Pizza Hut, it was about replacing the famous Italian pizzas by the Pizza Hut ones. It is here again, a way for the Americans to say that their food can be as good as the Italian one and even replace it, because traditional and conservative Italians, embodied by elderly people, eat it instead of the one they are used to.


In this ad, a couple is in the supermarket and needs to buy cheese. The man proposes to buy some Parmigiano and the woman asks when did he become such a foody. The man answers that he heard the Parmigiano was the Pornhub premium of cheese.

This advertisement made a controversy because the consortium of the Parmigiano decided to complain and this ad was censored. The comparison of porn and Italian cheese can be offensive for the producers and their work and they consider that Pornhub tries to take advantage of the Parmigiano fame. Once again, a foreign brand uses an Italian product to value itself.


Italian advertising : using Italy as an added value for abroad


In this ad, we see Bruce Willis in Italy, who has run out of gas and no telephone network, until a farmer finds him and decides to help. Bruce Willis is supposed to go to a party and is late, but the farmer takes his time and stops in a market for example to buy some vegetables. They go through Italian villages in an Ape car. At the end, Bruce Willis arrives in the party and takes pictures with the farmer.

This ad is also full of Italian stereotypes ; the simple-minded farmer going in a vegetables market in an Ape car in front of the charismatic and elegant American movie star going in a party with rich and famous people. But here, the American star is out of network and it is the Italian who has a super one and rescues him. This ad was made to show the expertise of the Italian network Vodafone and the message is “if an American star likes it, you will like it too”. They rely on a famous character to boost the efficiency of the ad and give it more impact.

Italy the Extraordinary Commonplace

This video is about Italy and its stereotypes ; latin lovers, gesticulators, pizza makers, party addicts, football maniacs etc. Each scene starts with one stereotype which is mentioned and images that illustrate them. But in fact, we rapidly notice that we were wrong ; these images actually illustrate the know-how and added value of Italy in the world. For example, we see a man’s hands with something that looks like flour. We could think that he is preparing pizzas, all the more since there is this message “pizza makers ?” which appears. But then, we see the whole scene and realize that he is creating the model of a new bridge and we are told that Italy is a world leader in the creation of major infrastructures.

This video was made to highlight the strengths and dispel some of the main stereotypes about Italy, that the Made in Italy is able to express only products of fashion and design, and of course food. Video “Italy the Extraordinary Commonplace” refutes stereotypes about Italy and then tells what it is, that is a major producer of technological goods, according to European exporter in mechanical and automation.

Made of Italians

The video was made to promote the Expo of Milano 2015 and more precisely, the “Made of Italians” pass program. This pass was made for all the Italians who live abroad and who would like to come back to their homeland or visit it for the first time. Thanks to it, they will have reduced prices and discounts to organize their trip to the Expo.

This video shows what Italy is famous for; its History, culture, the food, the places etc.

Contrary to the other one, here, the stereotypes are put forward in order to bring the Italians back to their country, instead of trying to dismantle them. This video tries to show the best parts of Italy because it is bound for people who may have never been there. In this case, a country can use its own stereotypes to appeal its own population.


All the advertisements introduced here are about the Italian stereotypes but these are used in a different way. In the first part, Italian stereotypes are used by foreign brands in order to sell their own products, valuing Italian know-how but claiming that theirs are better. In the second part, Italian themselves use these stereotypes to put forward their added value and show that their country is more than that and has more to offer. To conclude, stereotypes are not always a synonym of mockery, or something simplistic. They can also turn out to be really helpful for the world advertising.


And you, how do the stereotypes make you feel ? Offended or enhanced ?

Do you know some examples of commercials using stereotypes of a country ?

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