The image of Palermo between politics and advertising

The object of analysis made is an advertising campaign by Palermo’s municipality in October-December 2006. The campaign was structured in a simple way, using some quotation got out of several articles talking about Palermo. It deals with a campaign which had arouse a great deal of interest, on a mediatic level too. For many weeks it was at center of many discussions between citizens; a lot of people have talked about in their blogs; and also a program on a private channel has broadcasted a report[1] which put into evidence some discrepancies.
The job of creating and planning was given to the advertising agency ‘Publicis’[2] in Rome. Creative director of the campaign was Gaetano La Rosa[3], a famous copywriter. Media used was only external billposting and on Palermo’s bus.
The central idea of the advertising strategy is simplicity: a clear message that hits the target in a intended way, without help of symbolic, allusive or veiled contents. The typology follows an ‘advertising format’ yet well established into promotions of books, films, cd and dvd, that is quoting a title or a good review of a newspaper or a critic that are thought as trustworthy, with a certain authority and prestige.
It was applied a semiotic approach, which allowed not only understanding the mechanisms of success or unsuccessful of the campaign, but also rebuilding the structures that have generated an interpretation than another one. Realizing a semiotic analysis of a communication process allows to dig up deep and gives rational trustworthy to the communication flow in the act between a broadcaster and a receiver, that is, in semiotic words, between an enunciator and an enunciatee.
The task was essentially founded on a definite route which has crossed the several levels of the greimasian model. The corpus of analyzed texts takes in consideration the poster designing widespread more or less homogeneously into the Palermo area. It deals with different versions of a same typology which sees the alternation of more than twenty headline published inside newspapers, magazines, dossiers, supplements and other publications not only local, but also national and international.
Starting point was the question concerning enunciation; we have paid attention on relationship between citizen, Palermo’s municipality and ending admiration which came out from the posters, and on legitimation and authority recognized to the Press. We have identified three reading levels of advertisements: the first one highlights only the headline between quotation marks and the newspaper’s signature; the second one incorporates also the logo of Palermo’s municipality; instead, the third one widens itself until taking into consideration the urban ‘con-text’ where the poster is put in.
Making an internal course on the semiotic square we have classed the last one as a non-institutional campaign, that however, implicitly, sent to the politic one. After analyzing the typology of communication (public, politic, institutional), in third chapter we have taken into exam the plastic level of the posters, making often a comparison with another campaign, this time expressly political, realized by Palermo’s mayor, Diego Cammarata.
It was more and more put into evidence as the mayor’s election campaign was essentially planned on the foundations of previous institutional campaign stand on by municipality. Despite we have found a series of opposition between classic and baroque campain as understood by Floch (1986), the municipality’s communication and the mayor’s one have wed a dense net of intertextual reference which have allowed a diachronic development of Cammarata’s campaign.
Matured the idea of previous campaign was activated a mechanism of finding of the hero: after preparing the grounds thanks to the creation of the idea of ‘new Palermo’, in the advertising campaign for the election of 2007 the mayor Cammarata storms into the urban landscape with a new series of posters with his photo and his name in a big font. Continuing the internal course on the semiotic square we can see as it realizes the last passage: from a non-institutional campaign to a political one.
Finally, in fourth chapter we have paid our attention on headlines, taking into consideration themes, figures and lettering question. Is surfaced the presence of a macro-theme, trial, that have revealed himself one of the most important and bearing elements of the whole campaign. We are talking about a trial as strongly influenced by the action of government of the administration. It isn’t a social trial that absorbs people, families, associations. Fatherhood of these changing is charged with an administration that was able to take on a series of projects to planning, realizing and concluding.
From the graphic point of view, in a first moment we can think that headlines present an expression plain indifferent to the process of sense’s creation. But, if we look more, we can choose a simple font rather than another one which is an important point and contributes to the creation of the meaning. Headlines activate a dense net of reference to the press. Generally newspapers adopt a standard font, the Times[4], which became synonymous with ‘press’, refering to the semantic universe that turn around the journalistic speech. Over the font there are other stylistic choices that as a whole make the aesthetic identity of a newspaper. An example may be the presence of italic, from his use inside the page’s composition, or the presence of capitol letters or the different combination used to distinguish headlines from subheads, summaries, etc. In these posters standardization is emblematic of the speech on the chancing of the communicative agreement.
Taking into consideration the whole corpus of quotations, the images which has been found is an image of a city totally renewed, freed of past prejudice which from ever have marked out it (we can think to mafia, to the bad quality of life, to the economic matters, and so on). Now the city is new, cool, it’s ‘in bella vista’: Palermo blooms and is born again. The advertising campaign knew creating an elegant courtship which has targeted to the revelation of Palermo’s charm. The citizen discovers that city where he lives is utopian, mythical, forgetting for a moment all the results of Legambiente or Il Sole 24 Ore which put it on the final positions as regard to the quality of life.

Fabio Brocceri

[1] It is a report by Giulio Golia broadcasted on 22 January 2007 on Italia Uno.
[2] Publicis is a multinational advertising agency, in Italy since 1986 with two offices, in Milan and Rome. Their main customers:Coca- Cola, IKEA, Champion, Nestlè, L’Oréal, Whirpool, Renault, and the Italians Finmeccanica, Monadori, Parmalat, Rai, Il sole 24ore, ENIT.
[3] Gaetano La Rosa studied art and communication at Dams of Bologna, with Umberto Eco and Paolo Fabbri. Since 1993, he worked as copywriter, in STZ, in Leo Burnett, Euro RSCG e BGS, in Milan, and as a free lance for Publicis Italiy, Publicis Conseil Paris e Saatchi & Saatchi London. In the last two years he was creative director of Publicis Rome.
[4] Times New Roman is a serif typeface designed in 1931 by Stanley Morison, typographical consultant to The Times newspaper from 1929 to 1960. Since 1932, and for 40 years, it was used by  The Times. For this reason, today it calls on mind the idea of press and journalism (, voices ‘Times new Roman’ and ‘The Times’).