Giancarlo Livraghi (Milano, 1927 november 25 – Milano, 2014 february 22)
When I came to know it, I held my tongue. I expected a jumble of comments by more or less known “big guns”, however more appointed than me. After all, he was the “Livraghi” in Livraghi, Ogilvy & Mather (people who work in marketing industry should know what does it mean to have the strength and the moral authority to place your own name before someone like Ogilvy). Therefore who was I to….
I knew (in person, I was already aware of its reputation) Giancarlo Livraghi more than ten years ago. With a gang of reckless guys, I had organized a workshop about Trusted Computing (who does not know what Trusted Computing is, please take a tour on specialized sites) at Informatics Dept. of Milan University. I armed myself of gall and contacted him: he was the President and Founder of ALCEI, the italian Association that defends freedom and privacy in Internet (it is the italian section of EFF)… rather “the Internet”, how Giancarlo named it as the exquisite philologist who he was. He invited me to go out for lunch and we dealt with the programme and his contribution.
Yes…. I’m quite lazy in this period… So I’m plundering that mine of wisdom of Giancarlo Livraghi’s site where I found this piece by Edmondo De Amicis… De Amicis is well known in Italy as author of (horrible) Cuore, where he painted a sweetened world where “goods” are polite, patriotic and honest and “bad” are cowards…
You can find the original version (in an antiquated italian from XIX century) at Giancarlo Livraghi’s page – here I tried a translation… I’m afraid you’ll lose the ancient aura of the languge… but I think you’ll find it interesting… And it confirms my opinion that “everything had been written yet“.
Well, De Amicis was a snob – if this word means anything – but it’s interesting to underline how he describes the process moving from an initial annoyance due to intrusiveness of advertising techniques, passing from a kin d of acceptance (“Growing insolence, as often, minimized the disagreeable perception which had been produced by the first discreet appearance“) to ends accepting the epiphenomenon of a society:
oppressed by the matters, crowd by whims, longing for clamour, hungry for pleasures, tormented by impatience, swept away by the fury to devour time and gulp down life…
It was in that lapse, when my joyful studies were disturbed by a vexation, brief but a strong one. In those times the custom of external advertisements aboard the bandwagons (tram – T’s N) was beginning and widening quickly. Those bandwagons had been overrun inside for a while: inscriptions and pictures painted on the windows, announcements of any form and color sticked on the ceiling and on the walls. They affected you like a peeving discordant buzz, as they demanded to crowd you with offers and invites to dress and to wear you, to lather up and perfume you, to make you change your house, to make you subscribe to a newspaper and undergo to a hydrotherapy… whatever the cost.
[This is probably the oldest article ever written about advertising as we know it today. It has been quoted often, but rarely read as a whole. Samuel Johnson published it in issue 40 of his magazine The Idler, on January 20, 1759. I find the first footstep of it in http://www.gandalf.it/m/johnson.htm – I think was necessary to be read today…]
Advertisements are now so numerous…
The practice of appending to the narratives of public transactions, more minute and domestic intelligence, and filling the News-papers with advertisements, has grown up by slow degrees to its present state.
Genius is shewn only by Invention. The man who first took advantage of the general curiosity that was excited by a siege or battle, to betray the Readers of News into the knowledge of the shop where the best Puffs and Powder were to be sold, was undoubtedly a man of great sagacity, and profound skill in the nature of Man. But when he had once shewn the way, it was easy to follow him; and every man now knows a ready method of informing the Publick of all that he desires to buy or sell, whether his wares be material or intellectual; whether he makes Cloaths, or teaches the Mathematics; whether he be a Tutor that wants a Pupil, or a Pupil that wants a Tutor.
Whatever is common is despised. Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused, and it is therefore become necessary to gain attention by magnificence of promises, and by eloquence sometimes sublime and sometimes pathetic. Continue reading