Italia.it (e Scandaloitaliano) sul Wall Street Journal
La grottesca vicenda del portale nazionale del turismo italiano approda nientepopodimeno che sulle colonne di uno dei più prestigiosi quotidiani al mondo, il Wall Street Journal. Di seguito riportiamo link e testo integrale dell’articolo a firma di Davide Berretta (bio non aggiornata), che tra le sue fonti menziona anche Scandaloitaliano. Il nostro contributo al lavoro del giornalista, attraverso vari colloqui telefonici e un carteggio email, è stato: ricostruzione “storica” delle vicende del portale, fornitura della documentazione ufficiale (da cui questo), e la “messa in contatto” del giornalista con alcuni degli intervistati.
August 26, 2008
Branding Italy may be harder than you think.
This fall, the Italian government will revive plans to create a Web portal aimed at attracting tourists to the nation. Though plenty of visitors flock to Italy’s cities, beaches and countryside all year round, over the past three decades the country has lost its primacy as a tourist destination to France, Spain, the U.S. and — more recently — China.
Through the official Web site, Italy plans to showcase its cultural, natural and gastronomical treasures, while also helping tourists with hotel and travel bookings. The portal is scheduled to go live next spring.
The plan has critics, however. Five years have already been spent — and more than €45 million ($66 million) set aside — on creating the portal, and there’s nothing yet to show for it.
In 2003, the conservative government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi first thought up the “Choose Italy” project, which would be based around the Web site www.italia.it.
The plan was to emulate successful national-tourism portals such as www.spain.info, which cost €9 million to set up in 2002 and drew 65 million page views in 2007. The Spanish Web site, along with a logo featuring Joan Miró’s sunny “España” emblem, has helped Spain become the world’s second-most-popular tourist destination after France.
For Italy, humbled by political and corporate scandals, the Web site also was supposed to project Italy’s bella figura, or attractive side, to the world.
But things quickly went wrong.
Several government ministries — in two administrations — and each of Italy’s 20 regions were involved in creating the portal. Associations of travel agencies and hotel owners had their say as well, while the design and creation of the site was assigned to a consortium of three different companies.
There was “no single guide telling us where to go with this,” says Luca Palamara, former managing editor of www.italia.it.
Simple disputes over whether to handle hotel bookings through the Web site went unresolved after a year and a half of discussion, Mr. Palamara says. Technological issues also arose: The homepage was not customizable, and its two main databases were not compatible.
When the Web site went live in February 2007 — by that time, a new center-left government was in place in Italy — it was riddled with embarrassing blunders. The first name of the famous Italian movie director Federico Fellini became “Gioacchino,” while Corsica-born Napoleon Bonaparte was made a native of the island of Elba, recalls Mr. Palamara, who says the mistakes were subsequently corrected.
Scandalo Italiano, a popular blog authored by Italian multimedia professionals, chronicled more of the slip-ups. Among them: Typical seafood dishes from the coastal region of Marche came to include “pork roast with prunes,” which is popular in Poland.
“This kind of content was a very serious accident,” says Roberto Falavolti, chief executive of Sviluppo Italia, one of the government agencies involved in creating the portal.
Plans for an Italy logo didn’t do much better. WPP Group’s brand-consultancy unit Landor Associates won a €100,000 government tender to design the logo. But Landor’s symbol — a classically-typed red and black letter “i” and an oversized, green letter “T” — fell flat.
AIAP, Italy’s association of graphic designers, drew up a petition against the symbol, saying the logo was “inadequate” and “without history.” The government eventually abandoned the logo, and last January the portal was shut down.
But the Web site’s misadventures are particularly striking, considering that tourism is one of the country’s most successful industries.
Even Francesco Rutelli, the former deputy prime minister who took over the project when Italy’s center-left government came to power in mid-2006, acknowledges the problems. “The project was born already obsolete in technological, organizational and conceptual terms,” Mr. Rutelli stated in an email.
Advertisers and those involved with the project say the current government — run, again, by Mr. Berlusconi — should learn from its mistakes.
Marco Ottolini, who was a consultant for one of the companies responsible for “Choose Italy,” says that perhaps too much money was thrown at it. A €1 million budget given to one agency would have been enough, he says. Indeed, Spain’s portal was handled by a single public company, Segittur SA, working directly for the country’s ministry of tourism.
“Spain created a brand. Italy tried creating — without much success — a Web site,” says Manfredi Ricca, business director at the Italian unit of Interbrand, a global branding consulting firm that is part of ad holding company Omnicom Group and was briefly a consultant for the “Choose Italy” project in its early planning stages.
Mr. Ricca says the government’s renewed efforts should focus on clarity of vision and that an “orchestra conductor” should be hired to coordinate the ideas of all of Italy’s government entities and regions.
“With geographical brands it is particularly important to tell the same message with the same voice,” he says.
Write to Davide Berretta at firstname.lastname@example.org