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Certain countries are chosen disproportionately as a site for technology commercials. Italy is a favorite. GE, Lucent, Accenture, and IBM use Italy as a background for their ads. Associated with traditional culture and family Italy serves as a site to demonstrate that information and other new technologies do not disrupt traditional cultural forms. For example, in a GE commercial an Italian soccer play gets hurt. A Catholic cardinal and his staff of priests pray for a miracle. The soccer player is given an MRI using GE technology and he returns to the game. The cardinal sees it as a miracle. Italy functions as a background in which traditional signifiers and technology easily blend. It is a non-threatening traditional landscape.

Framed by blue borders IBM constructs vignettes that meld the problems and anxieties associated with globalization to technological solutions created by IBM. In the commercial entitled "global impact" an Italian voice-over notes the threatening impact of the process of globalization on the Capece family.

For generations, the Capece family made the finest olive oil in Umbria
But the world changed.
Globalization! Tragedy!
"Why are you crying?"
"You're leaving the village to save the family."
"But grandma, there's a new way to do business.
I don't have to leave."
"How?"

IBM e-commerce let's you stay local, sell global.

"You make me cry for nothing?"

global impact

The commercial relies heavily on stereotypical representations of Italy --the Italian mother, the family business, emotionalism, and olive oil. . Shot in black and white and the use of spoken Italian with subtitles gives the ad a feeling of authenticity. While the narrative expresses real fears--that the processes of globalization threaten to disrupt traditional social formations such as the family, the use of cultural, psychological, and economic stereotypes serve to reduce the anxiety when wedded to IBM's solution. Moreover, IBM appropriates the activist slogan, "Think global. Act local," and neatly tweaks it into "stay local, sell global." IBM is not the problem, but the solution.

culture shock

The second commercial ironically entitled "culture shock" finds a middle age Ohio couple visiting Italy where they encounter an old Italian woman who sells her olive oil. They stop at an out of the way storefront to take a tourist photograph when an older Italian woman appears in the doorway. When the couple first encounters her, they speak to her in a condescending tone as if she were a child. When they learn that she sells olive oil "in Ohio and California and Canada and...", their tone voice immediately changes. They only have three measly stores in Ohio. IBM's Internet technology has allowed her business to bypass theirs. A rude awakening. Culture shock refers to the Ohio couple discovering a more advanced use of technology in what seems to be a traditional almost backward country by a traditional almost backward woman.


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Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey