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What if it rained Campari? The early marriage of art and advertising

Posted in Things We Love

Depero Campari
Fortunato Depero’s Campari ad

All of you who attended high school in Italy raise your hand and answer this question: “What are the following statements related to? and what is ZANG TUMB TUMB?”

1. We intend to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and fearlessness.

2. Courage, audacity, and revolt will be essential elements of our poetry.

Stashed away in the part of my brain where slightly useful information goes in hiding, I could have retrieved the answer: the first two points  of the Futurist manifesto and its most famous poem.

Futurism was a quintessentially Italian art movement founded by  Filippo Marinetti at the turn of the last century, often identified with Fascism – maybe a bit unjustly as Mussolini was not known for his love of art. Mostly the movement, which encompassed visual arts, literature and design, glorified speed, technology and modernity. And that is all I remember of the damned thing.

Well, I recently found out that one of its most representative painters, Fortunato Depero, moon lighted as a graphic artist and designed both some iconic adverts for our beloved Campari, and the little bottle of Camparisoda, still to be found today in every Italian bar.

Bitter Campari was born in 1860 in a little bar in Novara, owned by the Campari family. To this day, the recipe of bitter herbs is a guarded secret, a bit like an Italian Coca Cola. In the 1920s production of the bottled drink was launched and Mr. Campari, maybe an art connoisseur, or just a visionary, commissioned Fortunato Depero to design some posters for his trademark drink.

The partnership led to Depero also creating the single-serving bottle of the aperitif: inspired by an upside down champagne glass.  I wonder if he ever envisaged it becoming an enduring example of successful design.

Campari ad
He inadvertently put Bitter Campari on his head

The posters created for Campari feature the sharp angles and surreal text Futurism was known for.

Depero Campari
What if it rained Bitter Campari?

The little red bottle was the last project Depero did for Campari but the company approached other artists, over the ensuing decades to come up with their vision of how the drink should be marketed, at a time when market research didn’t yet exist and it was still a matter of gut instincts and personal taste.

Camparisoda bottle
The little bottle that could!
It reads: It runs with the times

Famous actors and actresses have been paid, in most recent times, to endorse our drink of choice but none of them could replicate the inventiveness and panache that Mr. Campari no doubt sought when approaching artists. How can you top “What if it rained Campari”?

Images found in the Campari archives and in the public domain.

You would think we take money from Campari but, honestly, we just drink the stuff!


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  1. OK, i’m convinced. I love my glass of wine and don’t very often venture out from that. But, this sounds wonderful…i’m gonna give it a try!

    March 9, 2014
  2. What an interesting post. I did not know any of this and I tended to eschew the bitter little drink for sweeter options when I lived in Italy. Now I feel I missed out!

    March 7, 2014
    • I am such an occasional drinker. Three cocktails a month and a beer with fish and chips for me – I learnt to drink with sweet concoctions but now I couldn’t go anywhere a pina colada if they paid me. The best way to start with Campari is a tall glass, plenty of ice, 1/3 Campari and 2/3 Sprite or Seven Up. It cuts into the bitterness and it’s delicious. Or red blood orange juice, when the oranges are in season and really sweet, like they serve it in Rome. Barmen in this country tend to put way too much Campari, which is why I always supervise the mixing….

      March 7, 2014
      • Thanks for the knowledge. I used to enjoy a capiroska alla fragola when I was in Italy but haven’t really had one since. I will check for Campari on drinks menus in the future and give it a try. I want to belong!

        March 7, 2014
  3. silvia

    When you come over here I have decided to give Campari another chance.
    Maybe next time I drink it I’ll like it.
    Because everything about it is cute.
    Depero did a fantastic job. You’re right it’s impossible to cope What if it rained Campari?

    March 7, 2014
    • I will introduce you. Better not start with a Negroni right off the bat..

      March 7, 2014

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