Advertising is the body and soul of business, they say; through TV commercials and paper ads publicity will turn almost anything into a hot commodity. Speaking today, we can safely say that behind a must-have item there is certainly a must-see commercial. Sometimes the perfect slogan or the catchy jingle can be so ingenious that it becomes a synonym for the product and even replace the object itself in a consumer’s mind.
In the ’60s, TV advertising was just starting its rise in Italy and commercials of that period can seem quite experimental and naive in the eyes of educated modern day consumers. Why then, do we still remember and talk about them with sweet nostalgia?
I bet that every Italian kid in the mid 60’s and 70’s, although showing no interest towards coffee (yet), was an avid follower of the Lavazza Coffee TV commercial.
In the 1960s Lavazza launched Paulista, the first ever ground coffee vacuum-packed in a tin. As a great innovation of the time, it would soon be copied by other companies as well. Mr. Lavazza hired Armando Testa, a visionary commercial artist, who thought of capturing the attention of adults by entertaining their kids as well. He developed the first unforgettable Lavazza ad campaign, starring the adventures of Caballero Misterioso/Paulista and Carmencita.
The scenes were made using the stop motion technique (an animation technique to make a physically manipulated object appear to move on its own), and artificial settings saloons, cactus plants and Pistoleros. All characters were stylized paper cones with bulgy eyes and a huge nose, and comically, the only feature that would actually distinguish the “beautiful” Carmencita from his suitor and the rest of the guys were her long black braids. Everyone surprisingly spoke in rhyming couplets, making the ad all the more funny and endearing to watch. They wore sombreros and spoke with a strong accent which was meant to be Mexican but really sounded more like Russian. All this did not make much sense anyway, as at the end of the commercial a voice in the background would proudly announce that the beans used for the Lavazza mix were 100% Arabica coffee from Brazil.
It was a black and white western love-story cartoon series beginning and ending in the same way. Poor Carmencita was either threatened or kidnapped by a cruel bandit and then promptly rescued by Paulista, who was disguised as the Caballero Misterioso. Because the product and company name could only be mentioned in the last 30 seconds of the two and a half minute ad, Testa ingeniously had Caballero reveal his true identity as Paulista right at the beginning of the last 30 seconds. Caballero would spin like a top turning into Carmencita’s real love. She would excitedly respond “Paulista! Amore miooo!”
The audience knew exactly how the story would begin and end, yet, kids especially, would watch entranced as those puppets moved in fits and starts and talked in rhyme. The Caballero Misterioso and his maiden continued their love affair from 1964 until 1975, becoming so popular that they inspired the design of a vaguely cone-shaped coffee pot named – of course Carmencita.