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Some Cities Taking Stand on Over-the-Top Ads

November 17, 1995

ROME (AP) _ In a country where a continuous bombardment of sexual images sells everything from motor oil to ice cream, some cities are putting a stop to the flesh parade.

Rome, Florence, Parma, Brescia, Bergamo, Catania and Messina in the past two months all have nixed from buses advertisements deemed distasteful because of vulgar language or raunchy pictures.

A similar backlash forced Calvin Klein to pull underwear ads in the United States in August.

The latest casualty in Italy’s $5.6 billion advertising industry was a campaign for the San Pellegrino line of pantyhose. The advertisement showed a realistic illustration of a raised derriere wearing only sheer pantyhose.

The ad also used the slogan the ``Brazil Effect″ to describe the illustration, implying that the firm, shapely derriere it depicted was an attribute of Brazilians.

Florence and other cities ``considered it too daring, vulgar, but it’s not vulgar really,″ said Claudia Castellini, a spokeswoman for Mantova-based CSP International, the pantyhose maker. ``It perfectly illustrates our product.″

Other recent ads have a scantily clad woman flung over the hood of a car and surrounded by men in a television pitch for IP motor oil, and a rear shot of a nude woman with her hands handcuffed behind to promote Fiorucci clothing in magazines.

Things may have gone too far, said Parma Mayor Stefano Lavagetto. He said complaints from citizens and city councilors prompted him to bar the San Pellegrino ads from public transportation.

``There is, in effect, a new attitude of generalized irritation″ at ``hard-core″ advertising, Lavagetto said.

The offending ``Brazil Effect″ illustration has been toned down to a silhouette form.

Explicit ads are not surprising in a country where serious news weeklies often have seductively posed nude models on the cover, where newsstands openly sell X-rated video cassettes and where porn actresses run for office.

Some cities also censored an ad campaign by the Bologna-based stocking company Roberta.

Its copy, to run on buses and billboards, read ``Culo Basso, Bye, Bye!″ _ translated as ``Sagging Behind, Bye, Bye!″ ``Culo,″ however, is vulgar in Italian and was replaced by .... an ellipsis.

The company was sanctioned by the advertisers’ own regulatory authority, but is appealing, said Luigi Pavia, director of the Institute of Advertising Self-Discipline.

A touch of blasphemy also appears inevitable in overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Italy.

A recent spate of jeans’ ads featured model Naomi Campbell posing provocatively in tight jeans, accompanied by the suggestion that holy water was needed to purify them. Several Italian prelates spoke out against the ads.

Television ads now running feature a bishop and his secretary proclaiming the ``miracle″ of a new vacuum cleaner.

The image of a pregnant Madonna from a famed fresco by 15th century painter Piero della Francesca has been used to sell laxatives, garden chemicals and now most recently, a pastry festival.

The work is ``at the mercy of anyone,″ says an angry Franco Landini, mayor of the Tuscan town of Monterchi where the fresco resides. ``It violates the common sense of morality,″ he said.

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