Italy. 3 February 1957, 8:50 P.M.
It’s the very first episode of a revolutionary, ad-based Italian television show. From 1957 to 1977, the Carosello (meaning “carousel” in Italian) kept Italian families glued to their screens. Featuring unforgotten short advertising sketches, the Carosello included comedy films with live action, animation, and puppetry. The series gained enormous popularity, and had an audience of about 20 million viewers, a huge number based on a national population of 45 million!
When you think of the origins of Italian television, you can’t but think of the Carosello. There was no other show so memorable, so distinctive, that managed to enter into Italian pop culture in such a natural and familiar way.
The hunger and the bombs were still a vivid memory. But now, with the advent of the fifties, Italians suddenly found themselves driving their Cinquecento, humming the Carosello’s most famous jingles, and repeating the most memorable slogans.
The Carosello wasn’t just a show. It was a symbol of the economic boom of the time. A unique, profoundly-Italian phenomenon, which is difficult for an outsider to comprehend. In the rest of the world, in fact, it would have been unthinkable to waste one minute and forty-five seconds of pure storytelling in order to sell a product that was presented only in the last thirty seconds of the film. Italian nonsense? Maybe. Yet, today storytelling is one of the most powerful tools in the hands of marketers… and this makes you think.
The Carosello, whose ads often featured Italian cinema giants such as Federico Fellini, Ermanno Olmi, or Pierpaolo Pasolini, was the mirror of a fast-changing nation.
It’s 1958, and a funny kid with an untamable attitude makes his first appearance into Carosello. It’s Angelino, spokesperson for a detergent brand. And it’s the first animated movie to enter the show.
Angelino is one of the characters created by the pencil of Paul Campani, a true Emilian, a multi-faceted personality that defies any label. A brilliant pioneer, who can be defined as the Italian Walt Disney.
Paul (real name Paolo) was born in 1923. At age 31, he founded Paul Film. The company’s headquarters were in the attic of Paul’s tiny apartment, located in Piazza Marconi (today Piazza XX Settembre), in the heart of Modena, Italy. To get there, Paul needed to climb 100 steps every day. Right in that attic, Paul started to build his American dream.
In that roof, Paul created a series of iconic characters. Among them, the small “mustache man” (l’Omino coi Baffi, in Italian), symbol of Bialetti, an Italian producer of moka (coffee) home brewing. Today, the character still frequently pops up in Italian houses at coffee time, with his stolid and unmistakable expression. It seems that the mustache man is none other than a caricature of Alfonso Bialetti, the company owner and inventor of moka.
At its peak, Paul Film was releasing up to one spot a day for the Carosello. Paul’s company grew from its roots in the attic to eventual occupation of the whole Campani family’s house. In the sixties, a complete film set was created within the Paul Film’s offices, and more than eighty people were working for the company. It was the biggest studio of its kind in Europe.
In 1968, Louis Armstrong – while in Italy for the Sanremo Festival – stopped by Paul’s offices. He arrived by train. At the Modena central station, nobody recognized him. Armstrong walked to Paul Film to record original music for a Carosello ad. He played for three hours, enchanting the employees, technicians, director, and Paul himself.
Then, all of a sudden, the oil crisis, austerity, and political violence that characterized the seventies in Italy ensued and changed the fate of the Carosello.
The first day of 1977 was the last one for the show. On January 1st, at 9 PM sharp, the last ad aired. And the show shut down for good. That same year, Paul Film ceased its activity as well.
Paul Campani didn’t like to call himself an artist, though he clearly was. Rather, he referred to himself as a “dream merchant.”
To his collaborators, he was “the thunderbolt” with a few strokes of his hand. Almost carelessly, he managed to create extremely vivid characters that seemed to have life on their own, outside the screen. Paul was also a thunderbolt when it came to understanding the public’s psychology, at a time when the Italian population was undergoing a deep and fast change.
Like most of his peers, born on the ashes of the two World Wars, Paul was a young boy who dreamed of America.
He saw it through comics and Disney animated movies. And, somehow, he brought a little bit of America to his attic in the center of Modena.
Years went by. The Carosello is just a faded memory for many. Yet, right here in Modena, forty years later, Doxee is continuing Campani’s groundbreaking ability to create powerful visual storytelling. The mission is still the same: To conquer people’s hearts with the magic and memorable allure of images. Techniques are completely new, thanks to interactive and personalized content and images that can now evolve and adapt to the user’s needs and actions. But the goals of grabbing and keeping the audience’s attention and creating an unforgettable experience are still the same,
With new approaches to personalized movie-making and creating great stories, who knows what other magic that “merchant of dreams” from Modena could have done today.