In late September, the chairman of the world’s largest pasta manufacturer offended people on several continents
when he told a radio interviewer he would never include a gay family in his advertising.
Though many expressed their outrage, Barilla chairman Guido Barilla’s initial response to the outpouring of vitriol was a guarded non-apology clarifying that he only meant to say that “the woman plays a central role in a family.”
But even when the most impassioned moral argument falls on deaf ears, a well-targeted boycott can do the trick. A day after gay rights groups in both the U.S. and Italy called for consumers to choose pasta brands with friendlier stances toward the gay community, Barilla issued a series of mea culpas promising a dialogue civil rights leaders, and now the company has entirely reversed course.
In comments published yesterday by Reuters, Barilla announced it would work to make the company more diverse and said it would create an ad campaign that is more inclusive than the previous ads that depicted only traditional families.
The company has brought in U.S. gay activist David Mixner to participate in a new advisory board aimed at fostering diversity, and it’s offering the public the opportunity to submit online videos that represent the “multifaceted nature of pasta.”
Guido Barilla initiated the controversy during a September interview with Italy’s Radio 24, in which he said that while he was in favour of gay marriage, he did not think gay couples should adopt a child and would not include such a couple in Barilla advertising. He also said that people who do not like Barilla’s advertising could eat another brand of pasta, another suggestion for which he has since apologized.
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