Barilla pasta kinda-sorta finally gets that bigotoni is bad for business

Barilla pasta got into some hot water six weeks ago after AMERICAblog exclusively broke the news that the Italian giant’s chairman, Guido Barilla, told an Italian radio show that the company would never put gay people in its advertising.

Barilla added that if gays didn’t like it, they could buy someone else’s pasta.

So they did.

What happened next was a textbook case of Gay David vs. Corporate Goliath in the Internet age, with Barilla issuing no fewer than four apologies in a failed attempt to quell the growing consumer and media meltdown of its once-famed “family” brand.

Fast forward to today, and there are signs that Barilla got the message.  (Albeit, six weeks late.)  It still remains unclear, however, if change is on the horizon, and whether Barilla will be taking “bigotoni” off the menu for good.

bigotoni

Barilla says it’s reached out to gay representatives in the US and Italy, though we have no details about any of that outreach, other than the fact that gay political icon David Mixner is involved, which is always good.  But beyond that, who knows. Barilla certainly never reached out to us, and we broke the story.

It will be interesting to see if Barilla follows the usual corporate path of parlaying with the large gay groups who have become increasingly irrelevant to the online direction that civil rights, and all progressive activism, has gone in the past twenty years.  They always try to broker a deal with the people who didn’t get them in trouble, thinking that somehow this will appease the people who did get them in trouble.  And it rarely works.

Specifically, Barilla has created an “advisory board to promote diversity.” As Kathleen Sebelius would say….

sebelius3

I want to know if the company has a comprehensive LGBT anti-discrimination policy, for starters, and how many openly gay people it has in any kind of senior position anywhere in the company.

Next, they promise a new advertising campaign that’s more inclusive.  Hmm.  That’s really the cruz of the problem, that Barilla said they wouldn’t include gays in their ads.  Let’s see some gays in their ads, and let’s see the advertising budget, where the ads run, how often they run, whether any actually run in gay media (and straight media), not to mention on the gay blogs. (And absolutely Barilla should run ads in the straight media, but they should also show support for the gay media here and at home as well.)

Make those changes, then we’ll talk.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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27 Responses to “Barilla pasta kinda-sorta finally gets that bigotoni is bad for business”

  1. Naja pallida says:

    I thought that would be covered pretty clearly under ‘hate’. :)

  2. Strepsi says:

    That’s the problem with bigots and the religious. To paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, ‘I’d be happy to read my Darwin and they read their Bible and we leave each other alone. But the religious can’t… they NEVER leave the other alone.’

  3. They recently introduced a gluten-free variety of pasta, as gluten-free is becoming a fad:

    Diet Can Be Dangerous, Expert Says

    Stefano Guandalini, MD, who is president of the
    North American Society for the Study of Celiac Disease, says the true
    prevalence of gluten sensitivity probably will not be known until
    biologic indicators exist to diagnose the disorder.

    He adds that one very real danger of following a gluten-free diet is eating too much fat and too little fiber.

    Guandalini is medical director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.

    “Someone who needs to be on a gluten-free diet and
    is closely monitored can benefit tremendously from it,” he says. “But
    for everyone else, embracing this diet makes no sense.”

    As you’ve been diagnosed with an allergy to gluten, it makes sense for your needs, but it’s something that people should investigate for themselves if they think they have a problem with gluten and need to abstain from it themselves.

  4. UncleBucky says:

    Barilla is now off the shelf at our store. √

  5. Phaerisee says:

    Denial, it’s not just a river in Egypt or a Republican Family Holiday Dinner.

  6. Naja pallida says:

    Isn’t that really the problem with bigots though? If they just shut their mouths and minded their own business, no one would care. But they always have to make sure everyone else knows about their hate.

  7. Monoceros Forth says:

    Would anyone at all, whatever their sexuality, have cared a toss what sort of families were depicted in Barilla’s ads if Guido Barilla hadn’t gone out of his way to blab about them? There was nothing for him to gain and everything to lose by opening his yap.

    I can’t imagine that Barilla picked up much extra business from right-wing customers grateful to purchase a product from a company with “values”. Buying pasta would require knowing how to cook, for one thing.

  8. Rambie says:

    Logo had the gay version of that Levi’s ad.

  9. bbock says:

    Yes he does. He was pointing out how ridiculous it is to deride a product’s quality because you dislike the bigot running the company. It’s possible for a good product to come from a horrible man. We should focus our criticism on the man and his words.

  10. bbock says:

    More likely two cute italian guys sitting next to each other at a huge family dinner. Maybe they’re husbands. Maybe they’re brothers. Barilla will never tell.

  11. bbock says:

    Here’s the version Levi’s actually showed on TV.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XD5k98oDYXs

  12. bbock says:

    So how many ads on TV are positive gay ads. Not ads that are ambiguous and could be taken as gay or not, depending on the viewer a la The Celluloid Closet. Not to many. So I’m not sure how one would make Barilla compare. Levis did gay ads and straight ads in the same campaign, but I NEVER saw the gay version of the ad EVER except on youtube. And I remember the ad campaign.

    Here’s the gay version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bB90Vkyqrts

  13. judybrowni says:

    And….they’d have to be gluten free (but that’s just for me.)

  14. EdA says:

    You DO realize, don’t you, that that’s not the point.

  15. 4th Turning says:

    May I recommend a steaming plate of mueller’s and prego and a very nice boxed chianti
    to go with your zany spaghetti romp “Loose Cannons” (Mine Vaganti). Buon appetito!

  16. Tor says:

    Off topic, but in my next life I hope to return as a bicycle seat in Milan.

  17. emjayay says:

    Just because the president of the company is a jerk, it doesn’t make their pasta mediocre. Unless you think all dried pasta sucks.

    Once it’s in the dish, any dried pasta is pretty much the same. I like the slightly healthier whole grain ones myself. Or for more health but a different sort of lentilly taste, Barilla has some stuff with way more protein and Omega-3’s and all that, which fortunately Stop and Shop has a house brand version of.

  18. judi says:

    I like this!!!! But I would NEVER buy the stuff.

  19. BeccaM says:

    Corporate PR disaster strategy step 1: Do not, under any circumstances, allow Guido Barilla speak again in public on behalf of the company.

  20. Mighty says:

    Its amazing how fast things for some when the bottom line starts taking a hit.

  21. Hue-Man says:

    Assuming they hired crisis managers, why wouldn’t they reach out to AmericaBlog for an exclusive with a younger executive to explain how they want to rejuvenate the brand, target markets that they’ve ignored in the past, blah blah blah. And to express their gratitude to AB, here’s the video of the new ad they’re bringing out in Sweden, UK, and Italy, etc. Rainbow Fusilli or some gimmick like that.

    Follow the example of SNL and show a corporate openness (even if, like SNL, nothing much really changes). Has no one in the organization gone to business school and learned (I deliberately avoided the word “studied”) about marketing trends? Hint: the old bigots are dying off rapidly….

  22. teddy partridge says:

    To paraphrase my former boss Jane Hamsher, who asked Lanny Davis this on-air, “Who’s paying you now, Mr Mixner?”

  23. michael penny says:

    Last week at the dollar store in NC, which specializes in discontinued or failed items suddenly had shelves full of Barilla pasta!

  24. kingstonbears says:

    Buffed Italian, semi-naked studs strutting around with platters of pasta and sausages? Oh be still my ancient heart.

  25. jomicur says:

    So the gay media (certainly including this site) spreading the word about Barilla, and the gay community taking action, served to get Barilla to sit up and take notice, at least to this degree. And you can bet that other companies were watching and got the message, too. But will we get an apology from all the gay Uncle Toms (Uncle Bruces?) who keep bleating that this kind of action doesn’t get results? I’m not holding my breath.

  26. scottrose says:

    Within 10 days, they could be broadcasting a commercial showing a gay-headed family enjoying their mediocre dry boxed pasta.

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