2016 Advertising Research

in Italy 

   In 2016, through a competitive application process, I received two grants from Washington and Lee University, The Woolley Scholarship for International Internships and the Johnson Opportunity Grant. I used these two grants to study art in Italy and analyze Italian advertisements for cultural symbols. 

   From the start, I collected advertisements from magazines, newspapers, small businesses, etc. While analyzing the advertisements, I delved into the realities and misconceptions of Italian stereotypes. For example, why did the majority of magazine advertisements include “Made in Italy” and the infamous red, white, and green colors of the Italian flag? After a couple interactions, I found that it’s not because they are excessively nationalistic. Italians are prideful of their resources and prefer to consume their own goods opposed to the rest of the European Union’s resources. A “foreign foods” aisle does not exist. After a couple months in Italy, I dreamed of Mexican food; I searched every local mercato in hopes of finding cilantro. To my dismay, the confused grocer pointed to parsley. For Italian consumers, Italian food is the safe and authentic option. Italians want locally produced products and I quickly found that the “Made in Italy” phenomenon encompasses many other consumer markets besides the food and beverage market. For the remainder of my summer, I searched for additional elements of Italian culture within my collected advertisements, and pushed further into the Italian lifestyle.

   In order to understand Italian culture, I had to ask questions, and therefore, I enrolled in a language course during my first week in Perugia. After the first day, I left feeling the weight of new phrases and vocabulary crammed into my head. I had never truly excelled in or enjoyed language classes, but now, I was in a city that barely spoke English. As I became more comfortable in the city’s environment, I made connections using fragmented Italian. I owe much of my improvement to a local cafe owner who patiently sat through my jumbled phrases and questions. I spoke with owners of other smaller businesses including vineyards, coffee shops, bars, and B&B’s. I quizzed them on their business strategies and tried to understand their struggles with the declining Italian economy. By the end of my travels, I had an extensive collection of Italian advertisements, an experiential understanding of Italian life and business structure, and a new “Italian perspective” on life.

   My time in Italy gave me the opportunity to explore my passion for art and advertising, as well as potential career paths, but most of all it transformed my perspective on life, as cliché as that may be. While in Italy, I saw advertising as art. Art, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. A straightforward person sees art as separate from life– a thing to be visited at a museum. In this case, art, and by association, beauty, are isolated and unreachable to some. On the other hand, there are people like me, that believe art is not reserved for a museum. In fact, it extends far beyond that. Art is present as I walk along a crowded street– it is in the carefully crafted outfits of men and women, the billboards, and the shop displays. Art is a part of life and I challenge you to search for it. 

"Historians and archeologists will one day discover that the ads of our time are the richest and most faithful daily reflections any society ever made of its whole range of activities."

                                                                                                -Marshall McLuhan