Unilever's Bertolli Appoints Mother to Global Ad Task

Italian Brand Has a History of Gay-Friendly Advertising

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Unilever's Bertolli has appointed Mother London to handle its global advertising business, with a brief to unify the brand's diverse range of products.

Mother, which already handles Unilever's PG Tips and Pot Noodle brands, won the business after a pitch. The London agency will work closely with Mother New York to run the business.

Bertolli was in the headlines last fall after the company hit back at homophobic remarks made by the chairman of Italian rival, Barilla. Guido Barilla told an Italian radio station that his company would never run an ad featuring a "homosexual family" because "I don't agree with them and I think we want to talk to traditional families."

In Germany, Bertolli responded with an ad declaring "pasta and love for all" featuring pasta of the same – and different – shapes and colors walking down the aisle of a wooden spoon into a bowl of Bertolli pasta sauce.

Bertolli's move wasn't simply a knee-jerk response to create publicity. The company has a history of gay-friendly advertising, starting with a U.S. commercial featuring two men dancing, drinking and kissing that won it a GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) award nomination in 2010.

Francesco Bertolli founded Bertolli in Tuscany in 1865, starting as a producer of extra-virgin olive oil. The brand has since grown into a range of Italian and Mediterranean food, including pasta sauces, ready meals and olive oil spread, sold in ten different markets around the world. Bertolli's global ad budget wasn't disclosed but the brand isn't a big spender; U.K. spending was about $4 million last year.

At its results presentation in January 2014, Unilever said that food sales were the slowest-growing portion of its portfolio, at just 0.3% last year.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said incorrectly that McCann Erickson Worldwide was Bertolli's previous global agency.

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