Many of you, before today, did not even know what he looked like, but everyone, at least once, will have said: “This is a genius“. We had a chat with Riccardo Pirrone, the irreverent and witty social media manager of Taffo (and not only). We talked about the controversy related to the post published on the occasion of the international day against violence against women, of the web (“which is not labeled”) and, above all, of what it means to work on the web today.
The words of Riccardo Pirrone
Riccardo, let’s start with the last event that saw you as a protagonist: November 25, during the World Day against Violence against Women, Taffo published a post that inflamed the debate: “There are two types of women”, appeared on the graphics, then a coffin on one side and the words “Those who denounce” on the other. A provocation that, however, many did not like at all.
A lot of things didn’t like it, to tell the truth. A real rift has been created: on the one hand, those who understood the post and its message; on the other hand, however, those who did not understand it or wanted to misrepresent it. The meaning of the post was simple, its purpose was to encourage people to report. The first criticism was made by those who argue that the mistake is that of having turned the spotlight on the abused woman and not on the man who beats or kills. The second criticism, however, was made by those who argue that, even if a woman denounces, it is not certain that she does not die anyway or that her tormentor ends up behind bars. Finally, a large group of activists said that a post like that of Taffo scares women. Not to mention the criticisms coming from digital experts, that is, from those who should know that the world of the web works just like this. They would do well to talk about their jobs, rather than mine. So, we start from the assumption that Taffo has always worked in this way and has always dealt with all social issues in this way: we talked about drugs, the LGBT community, drunk driving, deforestation, we did fundraising campaigns for Doctors. Without Borders, for Save the children. We are a very active company in the social field, because it is as if the brand were a person, therefore it addresses certain topics while remaining faithful to its values. This is a correct strategy for social networks and the success we have achieved proves it. Returning to the offending post, the purpose was to convey a number. Many have seen us rotten because, in fact, it is an advertisement, it is a pity that social networks work just like that. Then, it must be said that I have received many messages from women who have been subjected to violence, who have told me that they are amazed that the message has not been understood. In short, I think that criticizing a post that was intended to do good and that was working is stupid, as I think it is destructive to keep repeating that complaints are useless.
I am reminded of the saying that says “When the sage points to the moon, the fool looks at the finger”: it seems that conspiracy was done to shift attention elsewhere.
If it was done on purpose, it is a very bad thing that many should be ashamed of. Also because the damage was done to women, not to Taffo. Imagine a woman victim of violence, who finds herself reading thousands of comments that say “Reporting is useless” or “Taffo, this time you messed up, even those who report eventually die”. Do we realize the damage that these controversies can cause to the victims? So, if reporting is useless, what should they do? I repeat: the damage of those who attacked us was done to women, not to us, also because the controversy has paid off a lot.
And it turned out to be yet another social war: on the one hand the supporters of Taffo, on the other the haters.
Exactly, but the point is this: if a complaint and the State does not protect it, we must not blame Taffo, but with the State. Simple, isn’t it? It is not Taffo who beats women, he just said that, if you report it, there is the possibility of saving yourself. I don’t think you need to be particularly intelligent to understand this. But perhaps some have simply been in bad faith. Also because we only talked about us, the other campaigns turned out to be ineffective, flat, glossy, they didn’t say anything new and didn’t move anything. But do we realize that they are still posting with these red shoes running around in the squares? But when a woman dies, do they put on red shoes or put them in a coffin? Just for ‘sape’ …
How important is a good showcase on social media, even for an established brand?
A good product also works without advertising, but a good social media strategy can make it skyrocket. Many companies, today, have begun to understand how important social communication is to grow their brand. Taffo is an established reality, so it can also afford negative comments, indeed, it is part of the game. Many pundits don’t get it, the critics are mostly 70-year-old advertising experts. For heaven’s sake, it’s not that I’m young, I’m thirty-seven years old, but at seventy, what do you know about social media? There are people of eighteen or twenty who know more than we do, because they are digital natives, they have intuition, they are resourceful, they are smart.
Taffohas always used irony, sarcasm and black humor to communicate with his audience. Why is it still so hard to understand it and confuse it with wickedness and indelicacy?
Black humor ridicules everything that, at least apparently, is untouchable. It examines the funny aspects of something that is perceived as ugly, painful, untouchable: disease, death, violence, all those things that are usually said in a low voice. There is a kind of hesitation in talking about it, because it can hurt someone’s sensitivity. Through satire it is possible to soften these problems and to free oneself from the anguish that these themes bring with them, playing – in fact – on the ridiculous aspects of these topics. I tell you “Enjoy your life, sooner or later we will all end up lying in a coffin” is a way to make fun of the fear of death. Unfortunately, precisely because these are delicate issues, not everyone is able to tackle them lightly.
In your opinion, is there a theme in front of which we must stop or is it legitimate to be ironic about everything?
One must not make irony about the dead. Attention, we at Taffo make fun of death, not the dead. Returning to the post of November 25, it is good to clarify, in case it needed, that he had no intention of making people laugh, it was not an ironic post, but he wanted to make people think.
Let’s talk about you and your work. You said: «I have always worked on the WEB and the WEB has always been untagged». How do you explain a job that cannot be labeled?
Do you know a town square? Well, the square is the social network, the shops all around are the Facebook pages, the people walking, eating ice cream or running from one side to the other are the users. We, through the shops, communicate with people, bring them closer to our showcase, make sure they know our product. In my case, I like to make the brand as human as possible, I don’t want it to be just a logo. This makes it easier for people to approach and take an interest in the product.
Work on the web, however, is very divisive: there are those who find it hard to perceive it as a real job and those who, on the other hand, think they can do it because no particular skills are required. Can you tell me about your training and how did you come to do what you do?
I started long before social networks were born. I did Communication Sciences, I wanted to be an advertiser, but there was only standing room. So I decided to do something practical, I took a course, I started building websites, I dealt with web marketing, positioning on Google, jobs that I still do today with my agency, which has grown over the years, I was from alone, today we are ten. I do campaigns for much bigger companies than Taffo, who is one of my smaller clients. I work for Doctors Without Borders, Save the children, non-profit organizations, NGOs, national or even smaller brands. I only developed this method of communication later, it was in my intuition to be as confidential as possible with my followers, to create a closer relationship. But I don’t hide from you that I hate social media from time to time, I would like to disconnect from everything, after all I wanted to be a painter, why am I reduced to this? (laughs, ed)
It is fair to say that Taffo is it a politicized brand?
No, absolutely no. It is not politicized, rather it has supported themes in order not to fall short of its values. If, for example, we support the LGBT community to defend freedom and equality, because in the face of death we are all free and equal, we do it because it is right for us, not for a political position. During the Verona congress, we clashed with those who participated, but we did it because we went in defense of women and the LGBT community. Many right-wingers have insulted us, I have received death threats, but I’m used to it. Our posts are talked about and the purpose is just that: if a post is not talked about, it is as if it did not exist.
Many politicians have often ended up in your sights.
I make fun of the gaffes of politicians and talk about those who arouse controversy. I’m not talking, for example, about Zingaretti, but who ranks it? Not if I miss the mother! (laughs, ed) I speak of Salvini because he is divisive, because – for better or for worse – he is on everyone’s lips, I exploit his popularity.
You are about to publish your first book …
First and last! (laughs, ed)
What can you tell me about it?
He will talk about Taffo, black humor and the choice to use it in our social communication. It will be released in February.
Let’s conclude like this: our magazine is called DonnaPOP and, for us, the term POP it represents something beautiful, exciting, captivating. What is it for you POP?
Pop is the news, everything that manages to amaze, even if at the beginning it is not understandable or makes people discuss. Novelty brings criticism with it, every new thing is attacked, simply because it is not understood. If there are no criticisms, it means that you have not done anything new, so nothing beautiful.
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