"Looking for… a dark haired boy!" The announcement of the competition open to all the sons and daughters of Pirelli's employees was published in the 6th edition of "Fatti e Notizie" in June 1952. It was to celebrate the thirty fifth anniversary of an advert that by then was part of history: the dark haired boy, zooming on his bike, dressed in the colours of the Italian flag, his necktie flying, and Pirelli Tyres. The boy was Carluccio, drawn by the painter Duccio Codognato, who created the first testimonial for a Pirelli advertisement in 1917.
The competition announcement explained the origins: " About 35 years ago Carluccio, with the excuse of going down to the stationery shop to buy a nib, jumped on his Christmas bike and, pedalling furiously, reached the descent that led to the mill.
Because the "spring wheel" was not widely used in those days, but the "fixed wheel", Carluccio wanted to feel the thrill of flight, of taking off. He lifted his feet off the pedals and shot down the hill. Just at that moment, Codognato, passed by.
This inspiration brought immediate results, and so the Pirelli poster for bicycle tyres that brought authentic success was born. This year, we waited at the bottom of the slope down
to the mill, but Carluccio doesn't fly past any more. He's the chief bookkeeper of a Bank!"
In 1952, Carluccio was played by little Umberto Messaggio, who naturally won a bike.
But it is also true that, in 1917, the "first" Carluccio received his share of fame, subverting one of the rules of modern advertising: a common child became famous thanks to advertising.
These days the company faces are above all known ones.
The history of Pirelli advertising also includes self-endorsement, and photographer Ermanno Scopinich, who in 1948 created the famous "Camminate Pirelli" poster, based the man with the moustache seen from below the glass on himself.
Moving on to "famous" testimonials, Pirelli for many years focussed on "technicians" of the various product ranges: racing car and motorbike riders, popular cyclists, tennis stars. Two of them were exceptional: Alberto Ascari, world champion in 1952 and 1953, driving a Ferrari 500 F2 with Pirelli Stelvio tyres, and Manuel Fangio, world champion in 1954 and 1957 with the Maserati 250F.
In particular, the Argentine driver was the face of Pirelli tyres for a long time. In the mid Sixties, the lens of the Forster / Mulas duo captured beautiful and thoughtful images of Fangio, while Pino Tovaglia created the "Extraordinario" for the Radial.
It was 2001 before another racing driver was a Pirelli testimonial: German ex multiple rally champion Walter Roehrl, coping with a cold store where cod and Pirelli Winter tyres "love the cold". Roehrl himself is driving a sled pulled by a pack of howling winter tyres through the snow...
Two above all : Ascari and the Ferrari 500 F2 World Champion in 1952 and 1953 with the Pirelli Stelvios, Manuel Fangio World Champion with the Maserati 250F in 1954 and 1957.
In particular, the Argentinean driver chose to associate his image with that of Pirelli tyres for quite a long time: the "Extraordinario" by Pino Tovaglia for the Cinturato as well as the beautiful and thoughtful snapshots of Fangio are the work of the Forster / Mulas duo and they are from the mid-sixties.
It took many years to see the return of a driver on the scene, in 2001: this time the German ex-multiple rally champion Walter Rohrl was summoned to face a cold store where cod and Pirelli winter tyres were placed together as "they love cold weather" and then again he was put to drive a sledge pulled by a pack of howling winter tyres.
But in order to find a " non competitive" testimonial, we managed just by chance, by looking at the cover page of the Pirelli magazine dated November 1950: a very young Lucia Bosé with a leatherette suitcase produced by Pirelli Sapsa ( one of the many companies of the Group dedicated to so-called "diversified products").
As the years went by once again it was a Sapsa product that summoned a famous testimonial and above all was able to make a video: in 1980 the "Supermolleggiati (super easy) Pirelli" mattresses lulled the dreams of Italy's "super easy" and most popular icon, Adriano Celentano.
Or rather his cartoon version. A sixty second advert- done by Odg- in which the immensely popular Adriano was caricatured as he sang "the right mattress for me" based on the notes of Azzurro.
A "non-championship" testimonial appeared, almost by chance, on the last cover of the Pirelli Magazine in November 1950: a very young Lucia Bosé poses, with a leatherette suitcase produced by Pirelli Sapsa, one of the many Group companies dedicated to so-called "diversified products".
Years later it is again a Sapsa product that is used by a famous testimonial, particularly capable of making an impact on film: in 1980 "Supermolleggiati Pirelli" - "Superflexible" Pirelli mattresses cradle the sleeping form of the most famous "superflexible" in Italy, popular icon Adriano Celentano. Or rather, his cartoon image: a sixty second spot - by ODG - with the nation's favourite Adriano in a cartoon, and his voice singing "the right mattress for me", to the tune of Azzurro, his famous hit song.
Sharon, the goddess of driving instincts
And then came 1993: after years of adverts with solid, round black tyres, this was a turning point. The whole world was dazzled by the beauty of the thirty-five-year old Sharon Stone, suddenly famous thanks to her leg crossing in Basic Instinct. And Sharon crossed her legs again, this time with flawless cream coloured net stockings for the Pirelli TV advert: se vuoi guidare, guida davvero (if you want to drive, thenn really drive)"If you're going to drive, drive".
The story is now part of advertising history.
Sharon, dressed in white, gets off a private jet in the middle of the desert. A car with driver is waiting for her. She gets closer and as she does she notices that the Mercedes has Pirelli tyres. She gets into the back. Crosses her legs. And through the rear-view mirror, the driver doesn't miss a thing. She smiles. OK. I'm in. He stops. Gets out. Gets in the back.
But she gets out too. and gets in the front. Fastens her seatbelt. Smiles in the rear-view mirror at the idiot sitting behind her. And drives off in a cloud of dust.
The director was Dutchman Willi van der Vlugt. The idea worked, and the advert received unconditional approval, which led to an award even for the backstage film " Burning Wheels" shot on the California set. In other words, a milestone.
Lewis and Pérec: The power and the control
The next year, 1994, the media across the world published Annie Liebowitz's photo: Carl Lewis, the "Son of the Wind", at the start of the hundred metres' track in Santa Monica, California.
Everything's OK. Well, actually, not: Lewis is wearing a flirty pair of red shoes with stiletto heels.
The slogan devised by Young & Rubicam is peremptory: "Power is nothing without control". Six words that would become a true trademark for the entire Pirelli Group. And they still are.
The following year, King Carl moved to TV. Given the impact he made when "standing still", his appearance "running" would be just as inspired.
Director Gerard de Thame invented "Tyre Man" - dressed in a black tracksuit like the tread of a tyre - running and vaulting across the New York skyline from the Empire State Building to the Verrazzano Bridge, to the base of the Statue of Liberty.
A masterpiece of grip and safety, unveiled only at the end: the sole of Carl's foot bears the tread design of the new Pirelli P6000 tyre.
When he retired from competitive sport, in 1997, King Carl's place as Pirelli testimonial has already been taken by his female alter ego: the divine Marie-José Pérec.
The same director, Gerard de Thame, with that rubber tracksuit, and a race on feet with tyre-tread soles: now it's the queen of speed - the Olympic champion (she won gold twice in Atlanta) - running from some monstrous special effects.
The Ice Man, the Water Man, and the Lava Man chase the French athlete in a triumph of special effects that took two months to make, among the hangars of Swindon airport in England - where Pérec simulated the race - and the natural landscapes used then to create the electronic effects: the Totem Pole, a column of rock in Monument Valley, a glacier in Anchorage, Buffalo Bill Lake in Wyoming...
And this time, the soles of Marie-José's winged feet are Pirelli P5000 Drago treads.Marie-José Pérec
The miracles of the phenomenon
In the meantime, Pirelli had linked its name with Milan's F.C. Internazionale, the club later known as Inter.
In 1997, a young twenty-one year old Brazilian appeared in the black and blue strip. He came from Rio, via Barcelona. His name was Ronaldo.
The new start of international football had already signed up, enthusiastically, to the Inter Campus project - football training programmes against street violence - which grew out of the collaboration between Pirelli and the football club.
Ronaldo had already become "The Phenomenon".
Third milestone of the Modern Era: the huge poster that - at around one o'clock on a March afternoon in 1998 - was unrolled before hundreds of journalists invited to the Propaganda club in Milan, for the launch of the new Pirelli advertising campaign.
The perspective is the view from Corcovado. The ocean of Rio de Janeiro is in the foreground. Perched on the top of the Corcovado is the Phenomenon, wearing the number 10 shirt, in his typical pose after scoring a goal: arms open and index fingers pointing out.
Just like the Statue, except that Ronaldo, like his predecessors, is raising his left foot.
And on the sole, the tread of the Pirelli P3000 Energy. The campaign, devised by Young & Rubicam, was a triumph: the pose of Ronaldo/the Redeemer enters the collective imagination.
Imitated and emulated endlessly. Paolo Bonolis adopts it, Don Mazzi would like to give in to temptation.
But 1998 is also France's year to host the World Cup. And in Brazil, a campaign starts, with the Phenomenon, in his gold and green number 9 shirt, scoring in a goal made from the arch of the Eiffel Tower. Pity that straight after the final in Paris, the campaign was prudently suspended.
The post-World Cup eclipse of Ronaldo still did not prevent the launch of a couple of local campaigns in 1999: in Germany, the Phenomenon scored for Pirelli Winter Snowsport on a frozen pitch, after dribbling through a defence line made up of five snowmen, and in Japan, he scores the winning goal in the P6000 tyre.
For the record, for reasons of graphic design, Ronaldo has always been portrayed left-footed.
Inter's disaster of 5 May, 1999 prompts Ronaldo to move on, to Real Madrid, and the tyres are again the stars of the show: first, in the form a wild cavalcade, and nowadays they appear in the well-known "Fist".
But this is another story. Also because the Pirelli testimonials make a comeback, with the Project P Zero: shoes, clothing, accessories and watches.
Today's story is Naomi Campbell. Almost twenty years after her first Calendar, Naomi was back at Pirelli to endorse the Pirelli P Zero line, wearing the clothes and shoes, and the unmistakable watch with the red strap.
In 2005, the Black Venus chose to wear just shoes and watch, with the equally "natural" Tyson Beckford.