Guido Barilla, chairman of the world’s leading pasta manufacture, has ignited an international firestorm and boycott of his mega-company by serving up a heaping portion of antigaysto. Or was it pasta al piedi in bocca?
You’d think that in the 21st century wealthy CEOs would have learned by now that no one can take away their thoughts or convictions but they could lose business if try shoving their view down the throat of the public. But nooooooooo…
People wouldn’t love Barilla’s mouth-watering pasta if it was shoved down their throats and they didn’t like Mr. Barilla’s aggressive assertion of his beliefs about gays, his advertising and how his company actually didn’t need their business if they didn’t like his attitude on gays in his company’s advertising:
Guido Barilla, chairman of the world’s leading pasta manufacturer, prompted calls for a consumer boycott on Thursday after telling Italian radio his company would never use a gay family in its advertising.
“I would never do (a commercial) with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect but because we don’t agree with them. Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role,” Barilla, 55, said in an interview with Radio 24 on Wednesday.
Barilla – one of the best known pasta brands around the world – is one of Italy’s biggest advertisers, and for many years has used the image of a happy family living in an idealised version of the Italian countryside, with the slogan: “Where there’s Barilla, there’s home”.
In the interview, Barilla said he opposed adoption by gay parents, but was in favour of allowing gay marriage, which is not legal in Italy. His comment about advertising was in response to a direct question about whether he would ever feature a gay family in his company’s commercials.
If gays “like our pasta and our advertising, they’ll eat our pasta, if they don’t like it then they will not eat it and they will eat another brand,” he said.
Aurelio Mancuso, head of gay rights group Equality Italia, said Barilla’s comments were an “offensive provocation” and called for a boycott of the company’s pasta, sauces and snacks.
“We accept the invitation from the Barilla owner to not eat his pasta,” Mancuso said. Many Italians used social media to voice support for a boycott.
It’s a classic case of self-inflicted negative rebranding — something that can happen with lightning speed in the Age of the Internet.
Brandy Spears posted this on her Facebook page:
Barilla, via its Facebook page and statements has tried to walk it’s CEO’s comments back. Americablog has THIS COLLECTION OF THEM. The problem: his original comments were said with such conviction that it won’t walk the comments back and the company will lose customers, boycott or no boycott (can Safeway pasta be THAT different?).
Another issue is whether it’s possible for people today to disagree, even angrily so. Professor Stephen Bainbridge writes: “Honest disagreement apparently will not be tolerated.”
But many, such as Policymic’s Elizabeth Plank are outraged:
There’s pretty much nothing that could ever convince me to stop eating pasta. I don’t usually advocate for anything that’s low-carb (unless it’s accompanied by a sizzling high-carb side) but today I’m left with no other choice. You’ll want to switch to squash spaghetti, too, once you hear what the CEO of Barilla, the largest distributor of pasta in the world, has just said about gay people.
After an extensive post, she writes:
Whatever you identify as, join the worldwide boycott and let this offensive CEO know that homophobia and misogyny will never sell. Share this story and join the conversation on Twitter using the trending hashtags #BoicottaBarilla and #NotBuyingIt.
Meanwhile, the outrage continues to be evident on Twitter:
Barilla Chairman Stands By Anti-Gay Ad Policy, Citing Family Values: The chairman of Barilla Group, the world's… http://t.co/WLvbEG72QL
— 2LoveNotH8 (@2LoveNotH8) September 27, 2013
— Clay Shirky (@cshirky) September 27, 2013
Gay customers have taken Pasta Barilla CEO up on his suggestion to not eat his pasta. Here's why: http://t.co/rtNRoZmdi1
— msnbc (@msnbc) September 27, 2013
— GLAAD (@glaad) September 26, 2013
DAILY BANTER STAFF: Keep Calm and Probably Don’t Eat Barilla Pasta http://t.co/s79TpjuA95
— Bob Cesca (@bobcesca_go) September 26, 2013
Barilla pasta? Chick-Fil-A? Is there a conspiracy to make all homophobes overweight?
— CC:Indecision (@indecision) September 26, 2013
Homophobes will love Barilla Pasta's advertising policy http://t.co/Eo36Min5JJ
— ThinkProgress (@thinkprogress) September 26, 2013
Never liked Barilla pasta anyway, but now I won't buy it AND will give it Sicilian evil eye in the aisles http://t.co/OU97Fm9UzT
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) September 26, 2013
ON YOU TUBE:
–Comedian Ron Placone responds:
–Huffington Post Live
Unfortunately for Barilla, the image of the classic family is evolving and his stance is out of step with where we are in 2013. Same-sex marriage is legal in several countries including France, Spain, England, Belgium and Sweden. And we’re making considerable progress in the United States.
Just look at Wednesday night’s episode of “Modern Family.” In the season five opener, viewers not only caught up with prime-time TV’s most popular classic family, but its characters Mitch and Cam got engaged in a poignant proposal. Although the episode acknowledged the Supreme Court ruling in June overturning Proposition 8 and allowing same-sex marriage in California, it was not a political episode. It was a celebration of love, and their family was encouraging every step of the way.
Obviously Barilla’s CEO is free to do as he pleases — it’s his company. But he should realize that his brand, like all others, has to evolve with the times. As consumers change, so too must companies that want their business. Otherwise, the companies become irrelevant and die off.
In the end, Barilla may end up being his company’s biggest enemy. But for now, gay rights activists are competing for that title with a boycott that could hurt the company’s bottom line.
But is a boycott enough to send a message? Why not also give Barilla exactly what he didn’t want: Images of same-sex couples eating his pasta. Certainly there are a few enterprising designers out there who’d want to whip up some fake ads that’d most certainly go viral. Another route: Ads with famous homophobes with taglines like, “Barilla: Vladimir Putin’s pasta of choice.”
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.