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Upper secondary school
Pirelli Foundation Educational Courses
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University
Pirelli Foundation Educational Courses

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Advertising: A Single, Extended Story of Image and Communication

Since its inception ten years ago, the Fondazione Pirelli has worked tirelessly to develop the corporate culture of the Pirelli Group: this has given it the chance to enjoy a broader view of some of the activities which the company has been involved in – often in myriad ways – over more than a century of history

Advertising is certainly one of those areas, extending from the first steps taken by the company founded by Giovanni Battista Pirelli at the end of the nineteenth century through the present day. When it comes to advertising, the work of the Historical Archive has enabled the Foundation to construct a continuous and comprehensive narrative of the marketing of the Pirelli brand: a single story capable of absorbing a range of styles and languages in constant evolution, featuring materials and artistic forms that have seen huge changes over the years and messages and images that have been adapted over time to an ever-increasing globalisation. The result of this work can now be enjoyed in two books: Una musa tra le ruote (The Muse in the Wheels, 2015) and La Pubblicità con la P maiuscola (Advertising with a Capital P, 2017), edited by the Pirelli Foundation and published by Corraini: a multiform narrative journey that seeks to offer a unique vision of a world – that of advertising – necessarily dominated by complexity and change.

Hundreds of advertising designs are conserved in the Historical Archive: unique, original documents featuring the work of some of the greatest designers of the twentieth century. Documents from the 1920s to the 1960s enable us to reconstruct what was probably the most vibrant period in terms of the company’s visual communication and the moment in which the very concept of advertising was itself created. At that time, it was usually known as “propaganda“. In this period, however, the artist’s freedom of expression was limited to reproducing an image of a tyre, which had to be immediately recognisable to the public. Which brings us to another important source preserved at the Historical Archive: more than 300 technical drawings, created by factory engineers and used to “photograph” the tyre for designs, posters, product lists, window displays, catalogues and brochures. An extensive journey through print advertising, which – at the Fondazione Pirelli – provides information on all the things that have formed part of the core business of the company over the years, allowing us to trace its industrial and commercial history.

This collection of sketches is accompanied by the thousands of final designs, which means we have can continue the narrative from the 1970s to the start of the 2000s. This is the period of advertising agencies – the internal agency at Pirelli was known as Centro – and of an image scientifically constructed in marketing departments to then be reproduced time and time again. All with different languages and techniques. These were years in which photography took centre stage: a special section of the Historical Archive is devoted to the countless works made for Pirelli by highly acclaimed international photographers. There are also other photographs that help to tell the story of advertising from another angle – shots created for the exhibitions and trade fairs that Pirelli has been involved in right from the outset. Pictures that change over the years, providing examples of an uninterrupted flow in constant evolution.

The first advertising film dates from 1951, an animated cartoon by Nino Pagot for the Pirelli Stelvio tyre: from that moment on, cinema and television would delve deeper into the complexities of Pirelli’s message. Today, there are miles and miles of film completely digitased and available for consultation online from the glorious years of Carosello (an Italian TV advertising show), as well as films and historical documentaries.

And it is here, with digital, that a new challenge is just getting under way: to understand, interpret and include yet another form of visual language into this single, unique process.

Multimedia

Images