Italy spends €9 million on 'Open to meraviglia' campaign.
Italy's new tourism marketing campaign featuring Botticelli's Venus as a "virtual influencer" has faced a wave of criticism, including from within the government, since its launch last Thursday.
The "Open to meraviglia" campaign features the Roman goddess of love wearing modern-day clothes, including a miniskirt, posing in front of various Italian landmarks holding a cell phone or a slice of pizza.
The €9 million campaign, launched by tourism minister Daniela Santanchè and Italy's national tourism board ENIT, was slammed by the Italian culture undersecretary and outspoken art critic Vittorio Sgarbi.
“Since Venus is naked, it would have been better to see her that way, without needing to dress her up like this", Sgarbi told La Repubblica newspaper, describing the campaign as "the stuff of Ferragni", (referring to social media influencer Chiara Ferragni) and asking: "Open to meraviglia? What's that about? What language is it?"
Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano reported over the weekend that one scene in the promotional video, featuring young people drinking wine in an outdoor setting, was filmed in Slovenia and came from a stock footage platform.
In addition, an Italian marketing company was quick to spot that the Open to meraviglia campaign was not registered with its own website and promptly purchased the domain name.
With the Instagram handle @venereitalia23, an animated Venus tells her followers: "I’m 30... ok, maybe just a little bit older."
She introduces herself as a "virtual influencer" and says: "I will be the image of Italy in the world".
Open to meraviglia (Open to wonder) has sparked a flurry of internet memes, with social media users accusing the campaign of being tacky, embarrassing and relying on tired stereotypes.
Many were also quick to point out that a fellow member of Santanchè's right-wing Fratelli d'Italia party recently proposed fines of up to €100,000 for Italian entities that use English words in official communications.
"Regarding the memes circulating on the net, I had a laugh" - Santanchè told Radio RTL 102.5 at the weekend - "I consciously chose Botticelli's Venus, an icon known throughout the world and a symbol of our Italian spirit."
The minister hit back at critics of the campaign, specifying that the €9 million price tag is the total cost, including its promotion in airports and cities all over the world.
She also attacked those who criticised the use of pizza in the marketing campaign.
"I don't understand the criticism, pizza is famous all over the world, it is part of the Mediterranean diet and of our cuisine, which is appreciated, imitated and copied all over the world" - Santanchè said - "Perhaps it is criticised by the slightly snobby and radical chic people who eat caviar and salmon."
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