Antonio Federici was founded in 1896 in Italy. A controversial ad campaign was published by this high end ice cream company of Italy. In an advertisement, Antonio Federici has exhibited that a pregnant nun was eating ice cream from a pot of Antonio Federici Gelato Italiano. The tagline of this advertisement was “Immaculately Conceived”. It had been reported that huge number of complaints were lodged against the advertisement (Sweney, 2010). The print advertisement was initially published in The Lady, Look and Grazia. The women weekly magazine The Lady stated that it regrets for committing the offense which has been caused due to publication of this advertisement. Additionally, it has stated that it will not publish similar kind of advertisement in future (Mail Online, 2010). Advertising Standards Authority had censored the campaign for being offensive and hurting the emotion of a religion. This paper will focus on analyzing the controversial advertising campaign of Antonio Federici Gelato Italiano. The advertisement will b critically analyzed by consideration of various perspectives to identify its core purpose and style of representation.
Antonio Federici has stated that they wanted to utilize the concept of “conception” for representing the development of their high quality product range of ice cream. Additionally, it has been stated that their decision of using religious imagery is associated with their strong bonding with the product (MacRury, 2009). The advertisement also had a text “Ice cream is our religion”. The signs presented in the advertisement can be analyzed from various perspectives in order to present a critical analysis. Semiotics helps in the study of all visual signs in the surroundings (Bignell, 1997). It has been found that the Graphic designers are involved in the utilization of the theories of semiotics for communicating the concealed message with the aid of their work. First of all, it is important to identify the major themes of this advertisement (Clack and Brittain, 2007). The basic themes of the advertisement are identified to be pregnancy, innocence, religion, ice cream and temptation.
In this context a question arises that seeks to find the connection between conception and ice cream. Additionally, it may represent the idea of putting on weight by eating ice creams and not to worry about it. The idea of immaculate pregnancy is somewhat related to Virgin Mary. Although, pregnant nun is a controversial idea, the holy cross over the belly has a positive connotation. The innocence of a nun is reflected in this advertisement. The white and glowing skin represents clean image which is contradictory to the idea of pregnant nun. A heavenly light and innocence of the nun has a positive association with the religion and holiness. One of the strongest themes of this advertisement is religion. The basis of the advertisement is laid upon the church setting. The background of the religion is strongly connected with Bible. In the advertisement campaign of Antonio Fedrici, a candle is set beside the pregnant nun. It clearly denotes the rituals of Christian people. The Aches and sculpture exhibited in this advertisement has a strong similarity with the ancient Roman era and similar with that of Vatican. This advertisement has given significant importance to the religion and its conventions. However, it has demonstrated an image of rebellious nun who has conceived against her religion but has been practicing religion which is reflected in all over the advertisement (Bignell, 1997).
Ice cream is definitely the central theme of the advertisement. A statement such as “Ice cream is our religion” indicates the superior quality of the product. This advertisement has demonstrated that the quality of the Italian Gelato is so high that the nun gazes down to the ice cream. It wanted to communicate the holding the gelato of Antonio Fedrici is precious. Another important theme of this advertisement is temptation which is associated with the idea of sin. Antonio Fedrici has been able to make a reference with the idea of forbidden fruit consumed by Adam and Eve. This advertisement tried to emphasize on the moment of satisfaction as well as sinning in the church. Here, contemplation derived from the ice cream is given higher significance in comparison to the religious framework. Thus, Antonio Fedrici focused on communicating the high quality of the Italian Gelato offered by the company which seems to be irresistible to mankind.
The major themes of the Antonio Fedrici advertisement have clearly indicated that the controversy arose due to the utilization of the Roman Catholic Symbols for promoting the ice cream brand. The objects used in this advertisement strongly signify the orthodox Catholic religion such as use of Gothic font, holy cross, religious setting and the impression of nun. Even the punch line of this advertisement is widely used in Christianity. The company has constantly argued that they do not have any intention to mock religious faith of common man and highlighted their slogan of “Ice cream is our religion.”
The advertisement of pregnant nun has focused on equating the forbidden contemplation of Antonio Fedrici gelato with the denounced sexual behavior which has endeared the product to the progressive audience of Europe which has a large catholic population. Antonio Fedrici advertisement has image as well as text that are involved in equating gelato with the taboo related to the sexual behavior. It can be stated that the Antonio Fedrici is rhetorically mature and focuses on attracting the adults. Presently, human beings are becoming more aware of physical and mental well being which has made them conscious of obesity. Ice cream contributes in significant weight gain and the health conscious generation has been trying to overcome the temptation of ice creams. Antonio Fedrici has been able to identify this trend and planned to respond (Jefkins and Yadin, (2000). In order to respond to the difficult situation, Antonio Fedrici has decided to manipulate another pervasive ideology. In the traditional western society, specific restrictions were imposed and followed by the folks. In the orthodox western culture, strict sexual standards were set. The orthodox Roman Catholic Church was responsible for embodying the sexual behavior of Christians (Brierley, 2002). The Catholic Church had demanded discretion from the followers and focused on forbidding sexual activities for the religious leaders. Additionally, homosexuality was strictly forbidden by the Church. The framework of Catholic Church has proscribed the nuns and monks to practice celibacy. In the advertisement of Antonio Fedrici, the nun is dressed in her specific costume which helped in portraying the image of religious practitioner and attempted to transgress the sexual standards set by the Catholic Church at the time of eating Gelato (Turow, J. et al, 2009). In this advertisement, the nun who has conceived has been obviously disregarded as her vow of celibacy along with exhibiting her enjoyment as she relishes the chocolate gelato. The pregnancy of a nun is unimaginable due to the sexual restrictions imposed by the Catholic Church. This presentation can indicate a similarity with the act of having tempting gelato ice creams of Antonio Fedrici and encouraging getting involved into the forbidden activities by the traditional society and religious rules. It is evident that the strong association between these two can be implied clearly from the text transcript used in the advertisement “Immaculately conceived”. The advertisement of Antonio Fedrici showing pregnant nun emphasizes on the term ‘immaculate’ for referring to the manufacturer of the gelato ice cream by making a strong association with the virgin conception of Jesus. This advertisement of gelato both refers to the physical contemplation to eating the high quality and extremely delicious gelato by connecting it with the religious belief of Catholics. The tagline used in the advertisement of Antonio Fedrici has significant implication as it has treated the Christian beliefs quite seriously. Hence, it can be again concluded that idea of eating Antonio Fedrici gelato is analogous to the rebellious attitude against the orthodox ideology of the Catholic Church (Wharton, 2013).
The Antonio Fedrici advertisement has deliberately rejected some orthodox ideas so that the target audience can be able to identify with the portrayal of the rebellious nun. The company has identified that the present consuming generation had been involved in the Cultural Revolution in the western traditional world. This generation had revolted against the behavioral and moral standards set by the Catholic Church were questioned. Over the years which are considered as the moral standards and guiding rules for human life along with the teachings of the religious leaders and instructions of Catholic Church was criticized as archaic as well as oppression. At this time period, sexual revolution took place which significantly contradicted with the doctrine of Catholic Church related to various issues such as homosexuality, pre marital sex which was strictly prohibited in Christianity. The new generation has significantly emphasized on the celebration of love, freedom and spontaneity instead of giving entire importance to the discipline, faith and traditional guiding rules. Emergence of modernization was capitalized by the advertisement campaign of Antonio Fedrici.
In 2010, the advertisement campaign was published and censored as the Church felt it to be mocking the emotion of Christianity. Various people of this generation found the teachings of the Church to be impractical and discriminatory. This advertisement campaign has deliberately featured the rebellious attitude of the nun and the design of this advertisement focused on appealing the contemporary generation (Morley, 2002). It has been found for the past centuries Anglican tradition has not incorporated religious celibacy. On the other hand, ample incidents of sexual abuse have been reported within the Catholic system and many people started losing belief in the standards set by the church. Sociologists across the world started questioning the dogma of Catholic Church. In this context, large number of audience has not raised their voice against the representation of nun’s pregnancy. Hence, Antonio Fedrici wanted to attract this generation by supporting the rebellious action of the nun. As Church has maintained the traditional practices by imposing strict rules in terms of behavior and sexual activities, the young generation has started revolting against it. Naturally, they can easily identify with the advertisement campaign of the Antonio Fedrici. Thus, the company has been able to make effective marketing communication with the target audience (Longhurst et al, 2008).
The advertisement of Antonio Fedrici does not only focus on portrayal of the rebellious attitude, it also empathized on celebrating the values as well as lifestyle of the adult generation. The new generation has been found to be celebrating the new ideologies by rejecting the traditional values which tend to restrict their spontaneous activities. The traditional values in the British culture include discipline, restraint, faith etc. On the other hand, the new generation has focused on celebrating their spontaneous expression, love and freedom. The purpose of the advertisement is to appeal the new generation so that they can identify with themselves. In the advertisement of pregnant nun, apparently, it can be inferred that the nun who was supposed to practice celibacy has broken her vow for expressing love. The celebration of love has been expressed with the aid of the tag line “immaculately conceived”. This basically celebrated the behavior which has been conventionally frowned upon. Through this advertisement, the company wants to achieve effective marketing communication with the target market by representing their belief which is similar with this generation. The company has emphasized on exhibiting the fact that they believe in physical love which may not be allowed by the Catholic dogma (Cook, 2001).
The major purpose of the advertisement campaign of Antonio Fedrici is to seek transmit the supporting perspective of the activities presented in the advertisement to their ice cream. The format of the advertisement is unique that focuses on recognizing the similarity between the so called rebellious action of nun and eating delicious gelato. The action is considered to be rebellious against the traditional institution just like the activities of the generation that loves to celebrate expression and freedom as these are attractive as well as worthwhile (Briggs and Cobley, 2002). In the same manner, gelato of Antonio Fedrici is desirable and must not consider the negative consequences of unhealthy eating habit just like traditional disciplines and Gelato is represented as the freedom of expression.
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Brierley, S. (2002) The Advertising Handbook. London: Routledge.
Briggs, A. and Cobley, P. (eds) (2002) The Media: An Introduction, Harlow: Longman
Clack, T. and Brittain, M. (2007). Archaeology and the media. Walnut Creek, Calif.: Left Coast Press.
Cook, G. (2001) The Discourse of Advertising. 2nd edition. London: Routledge
Jefkins, F. and Yadin, D. (2000) Advertising. Harlow: Pearson.
Longhurst, B. et al (2008) Introducing Cultural Studies. Harlow: Pearson.
MacRury, I. (2009) Advertising. London: Routledge
Mail Online, (2010). 'Pregnant nun' ice cream ad faces ban in Catholic outcry. [online] Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1307140/Pregnant-nun-ice-cream-ad-faces-ban-Catholic-outcry.html [Accessed 21 Feb. 2015].
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Sweney, M. (2010). Ice-cream ad featuring pregnant nun stokes controversy. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2010/jun/18/fedirici-ice-cream-advert-asa [Accessed 21 Feb. 2015].
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