What I am going to do is to analyze the last television commercial of Tavernello: I will make, in this regard, specific references to some semiological, historical and philosophical theories whose final outcome can only be political. I would add that this level of evaluation does not in any way presuppose a moralistic judgment in respect of the commercial in question, nor, even less, an aesthetic opinion that I am happy to leave to everyone’s taste. The direction and photography of the commercial are the work of photojournalist Fabio Bucciarelli (winner of the Robert Capa World Medal) and photographer Stefano Morcaldo, while the campaign was designed by Lorenzo Marini Group.
The commercial is a succession of moving photographs: there is not only a sequential switch from one photo to another, but each individual photo is told with a different focus. The lens widens and narrows within the same visual spectrum, thus causing an effect of extending the gaze to the entire scenario occupied by photography. What they want to achieve is the voluntary and subjective effect of perception: it is not the advertisers who propose us a comprehensive and detailed view of the individual photographs, but it is we who, in an apparently spontaneous way, as if we were present in the image itself, move our eyes to broaden the view or to specify a particular. The first effect, therefore, is one of reversal: it includes the direct participation, even if fictitious, of the user of the spot in the landscape represented.
Halfway through the commercial (29 seconds) we cross the eyes and wrinkled face of a farmer: the exchange of glances is intense, deep, impenetrable. The principle is the same: to cancel the distance between the photographed subject and his observers. Photography thus becomes the analogon, according to Roland Barthes’ definition, of reality: it disappears to show the object it represents, which in turn conquers full and total visibility. (Roland Barthes, The obvious and the obtuse, Vintage Publishing 1993 and Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1981).
Only apparently we are faced with the mythical power of the pure denotation of photography (the relationship between the word and the object it wants to express) in which the image would represent nothing but the first meaning communicated: the vineyards, the farmers, the cellar, the harvest … In reality “a photographic discourse is a system within which culture directs photographs towards different representative functions. (Allan Sekula, On the invention of Photographic meaning, New York 1975). Denotation is not the first meaning, but pretends to be the first meaning: under this illusion, in the end, it is only the superior myth with which the text claims to return to the nature of language, to language as ‘nature’. Myths serve the ideological function of naturalizing the values, attitudes and dominant cultural and historical beliefs. In other words, myths work to make these principles seem completely natural, normal, evident, timeless, and therefore objective and reliable reflections on the way things are going. The first order (or level) of significance (denotative) is seen as the narration of real: the relationship between the word and the designated object. Nomina sunt consequentia rerum according to Dante’s adage (Vita Nuova XIII, 4). The second order of significance (connotative) reflects the “expressive” values that stick to a sign. In the third order of meaning (mythological) the sign reflects the main culturally variable concepts at the base of a particular world view (ideology).
Also in art history, the famous Warburg school (which included Aby Warburg (1866-1929), Fritz Saxl (1890-1948), Erwin Panofsky (1892-1968), Edgar Wind (1900-1971) and Ernst Cassirer (1874-1975) worked on a new approach to images, whose summa was Panofsky’s book published in 1939 (Studies on iconology) in which three levels of interpretation were distinguished, corresponding to three levels of meaning in the work itself. The first of these levels was the preiconographic description, which referred to “natural meaning” and consisted of the identification of objects (such as trees, buildings, animals and people) and events (meals, battles, processions and so on). The second level was the iconographic analysis in the strict sense, which concerned the “conventional meaning” (recognizing a dinner as the Last Supper or a battle as the Battle of Waterloo). The third and last level was that of iconological interpretation, which differs from iconography in that it deals with “intrinsic meaning”, that is, “those basic principles that reveal the basic attitude of a nation, a period, a class, a religious or philosophical persuasion”. (Peter Burke, Eyewitnessing: The uses of images as historical evidence, Reaktion Books 2001).
Therefore, those images are the face of multiple meanings whose primary sense, self-evident precisely, naturalizes the political, ideological, philosophical and cultural sense of the same: the male faces, to which the historical sense is entrusted, the representation of the true viticulture, the intense and distant looks, the strength of the arms and shoulders, the wise use of ancient tools, the tradition that is renewed, generosity and pride are personified, but this could only be the case, by the elderly and hands soaked in earth and hard work that cut bread or that hold a glass of wine proudly distant even in the form, like the furrows of their faces, from today’s modern tasting. The only exception granted, and to a partially different extent, is the man in the cellar whose shadow profile traits are perceived (32 seconds). The freshness, on the contrary, the drinkability and affectivity of wine are feminine, young, but at the same time are made of seriousness, strict looks and commitment. Nothing, the narrating voice reproaches us as if it were a warm vocal caption, it is easy: the simplicity that we, simple simplifiers of the work of others, assume is made of fatigue, expectations, fatigue: all the scenic representation does not give space to industrialization and mechanization of work in the vineyard and in the cellar. Even combing the vineyards refers to a graceful and timeless hairstyle. Each part keeps the others tied to itself and the narrative form turns to black and white as the primordial condition of the true story: “Black and white photos are the magic of theoretical thought, since they transform linear theoretical discourse into surfaces. In this lies their particular beauty, which is the beauty of the conceptual universe. Many photographers prefer black-and-white photos to color photos, because they more clearly show the meaning of photography, which is the world of concepts. Black and white photos are more concrete and, in this sense, more true; they reveal their theoretical origin more clearly; and vice versa, the more the colors become “authentic”, the more they are false, and the more they conceal their theoretical origin (Vilém Flusser,Towards a Philosophy of Photography, Reaktion Books 1983).
Then, breaking the flow of the narrative (41 seconds), almost bringing the public back to the level of the non-mythical and not mythical reality, burst the color of a ruby red wine as the blood of the earth, says the voice narrating, poured this time in a glass that winks at the contemporaneity. But only for a moment the colored interference, which gives the public an account of what the voice supports with words, reminds us back to the story of truth made of tenderness, strength and love. Finally, the advertising closes with color and a carton that, in its stentoreal, rectangular and three-dimensional propensity, embodying the architectural geography of the skyscrapers of industrial viticulture, seems to lay solid foundations in the barrels of yore and in the story conducted up to here: “Affective investment, degrees of intensity, tension style, modal device are, together with time, appearance and rhythm, the components through which to analyze the advertising passion, which can be presented as a passion enunciated, when it stages the construction, transformation and manifestation of a specific emotion or passion, but also as a passionate discourse, when passion is not contained in a statement but is the expression of the enunciation as a projection of simulacra”. (Cinzia Bianchi, SPOT. Semiotic analysis of audiovisual advertising, Carocci, Rome 2005).
Now, to conclude, it would be interesting to understand the reasons for this advertising compared to a company, Caviro, which is second to none in terms of numbers and turnover. A turnover of €306 million (2016), which, as the narrator has heard, involves 13,000 people in 30 wineries throughout Italy: “The Group, leader in the large-scale distribution of Tavernello wine, achieved an added value of €43 million in 2016. EBITDA (Gross Operating Margin) recorded in 2016 was equal to 17 million euro net of the extraordinary liquidation of the shareholders’ wine, which represents 90% of the total. The result for the year was 1.3 million euro, and the strengthening of the capital base continued, with Group shareholders’ equity reaching 91 million euro and the Net Financial Position reaching 56 million euro”. One of the reasons is certainly linked to the decrease in wine consumption in Italy where “the top product, Tavernello, suffers a little from the shift in consumption towards the premium segments of the market, while remaining the best-selling wine ever”. (Source: The numbers of the wine). (http://www.inumeridelvino.it/tag/caviro).
The Tavernello, like many other Caviro products http://www.caviro.com/ , has found new strength and propulsion from exports even if the question of duties (Russia and in the future England) makes promotion uncertain on some foreign markets. Hence the need to strengthen the patriotic bond and nothing better than doing so through the attempt to reconstruct an identity model anchored in rural, traditional intentions and with strong images that refer to a common sense widely shared of more or less stereotyped emblems of agricultural models of the past. Some contradictions are obvious and do not only concern the forms and content of the advertisement. But it is not certain that it will not work for the same reason.