Pasta maker Barilla plans "inclusive" TV ads after anti-gay remarks

Mon Nov 4, 2013 10:55am EST
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By Steve Scherer

ROME (Reuters) - Italian pasta maker Barilla has reacted to the global storm caused by its chairman's comments that he would never use a gay family in his advertising by saying it planned to make the company more diverse and run a more inclusive TV ad campaign.

Guido Barilla's remarks to a radio interviewer in September led to calls by gay rights groups to boycott the products of the world's biggest pasta maker, a company more than 130 years old based in the provincial city of Parma.

Social media quickly spread the comments that gave rise to numerous Internet satires, including one widely posted on Facebook and Twitter showing the trademark blue Barilla pasta box with the letters "Bigotoni" on it rather than "Rigatoni".

Chairman Barilla, the 55-year-old great grandson of the company's founder, has since held at least eight meetings with gay organizations and activists both in Italy and in the United States, a market where it is counting on for growth outside its crisis-hit home market.

"Italy is a very insular country, and in cities like Parma it's even more so," company spokesman Luca Virginio told Reuters, saying the firm had been shocked by the global backlash.

"The meetings have helped open our eyes and ears to the evolution taking place in the world outside Parma."

He said the shock could lead to a shift in focus from rosy depictions of traditional Italian family life that have always been the staple of Barilla advertising campaigns.

"We are already working on new advertising concept that will be much more open and much more inclusive," he said, without elaborating.   Continued...

Packs of Barilla pasta are seen in the kitchen of a restaurant in Rome September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile