Ski slope kiss taboo for Swiss, but enjoyed by Italians

12th December 2007, Comments 0 comments

By Heather Lima, dpa Airolo, Switzerland (dpa) - It was to be a simple kiss on the slopes to promote Ticino's biggest ski resorts this winter but it's exposed a cultural divide between Swiss Italian speakers and their cousins across the border in Italy.

The implied kiss between two women, labelled the "lesbo" campaign by some in the media, was apparently embraced by the Italian skiers targeted by the advertising campaign.

However it has left a chill in the air in the normally sunny Swiss ski resort in the southern canton. The plug has now been pulled on the controversial poster, drummed up by ski chiefs, that split tourism officials and caused dissent in the town hall.

Airolo's Mayor, Marco Chinotti said: "The local council felt the picture was inappropriate and ambiguous. It wasn't the image they wanted to give of the region. This is a family resort where we have hundreds of school children learning to ski and it was felt this wasn't correct."

The views were shared by the president of the regional Ticino Tourist Board, Marco Solari, who agreed the image sent the wrong message to potential clients.

The man who helped create the campaign, Airolo's ski resort director Elia Frapolli, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that he thought the picture was "innovative" and admitted he wanted to be provocative: "We wanted to do something different. We felt pictures of people skiing in the sun were not working. Well, they were working, but not having a big effect so we came up with this. "

In fact Frapolli and the publicity company Ferrise came up with two campaigns one showing two women just holding hands on the slopes, which was aimed at Switzerland, the second of the women captured as they appear poised to kiss, which was destined for Airolo's biggest market, the Italians.

"We carried out research which showed this would be too much for the Swiss but Italy was ready for the campaign, " said Frapolli.

"Culturally we are are very similar to Italians but in some ways, in some sexual aspects perhaps, there is a great deal of difference. The Italians are more used to aggressive advertising, you see it as soon as you cross the border in posters on the streets but in some ways we are more conservative here."

In fact, in Ticino the population was split over the campaign 50- 50 but further north in Switzerland it was closer to 80 per cent against. In Italy, the research showed 100 per cent in favour. In a poll of viewers conducted by the private television station Teleticino on its website, 53 per cent of those who responded said they approved but the campaigners decided to withdraw it anyway.

"We stopped it because we didn't want to continue in a bad atmosphere with the regional tourist office and the town hall," said Frapolli.

It seems everyone's happy, even the Mayor of Airolo. "The campaign was stopped but I have had calls from all over the world. The message about Airolo has reached everywhere."

And Frapolli, far from being disappointed, is utterly delighted that the tiny resort, the biggest in Ticino but with just 40 kilometres of slopes and hotel beds for 500, is firmly on the map.

The campaign, that was never even officially launched, has probably been his most successful and for little more than the cost of the "provocative" photograph.

"We reached our goal in terms of the publicity. It has been everywhere on television and radio even though it never reached the printers." dpa

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