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Sons of Italy® Report Reveals Pattern of Italian American Stereotyping in Advertising

Press Contact: Kylie Cafiero, (202) 547-2900

NEWS-For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON, July 7, 2003 The American advertising industry is showing an alarming pattern of promoting damaging stereotypes of the nation's estimated 26 million Italian Americans, according to a new report from the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA).

"Italian American Stereotypes in U.S. Advertising" presents a random sampling of print ads and television commercials seen nationally between 1999 and 2003 that use Italian American characters. "The men are invariably presented as uneducated, dishonest and/or violent," the report notes, "while the women are always elderly, overweight housewives."

"Advertising agencies also use the Mafia to sell everything from breath mints and milk to Internet search engines and teddy bears," says OSIA National President Robert Messa. "Why do we care? Because ads shape public opinion with serious consequences," he says.

Evidence of the damage is presented in the report. It cites a Zogby poll of American teen-agers that revealed 78% associate Italian Americans with either criminal activities or blue-collar work. Another poll of adults showed that 74% think most Italian Americans have some connection to organized crime.

OSIA plans to send the report to key advertising media, agencies and professional societies "to open up a dialogue about this issue," Messa says.

The OSIA report includes a recent column by Hartford Courant business reporter Matthew Kauffman ("Rub Out Those Ads That Spoof The Mob," May 28, 2003) in which he noted Madison Avenue's "seemingly irresistible desire to paint [Italian Americans] as silk-suit-wearing, pinky-ring-waving, New Joisey-talking galoots with a penchant for violence."

"The next time you're tempted to reach for the well-worn image of the Italian mobster," Kauffman advised marketers, "think about the message you're sending to customers."

The ads were collected by OSIA and its anti-defamation arm, the Sons of Italy® Commission for Social Justice®, with assistance from UNICO National, the Italian American One Voice Coalition and Italian American Pride. To view the report, click here.

OSIA is the largest and longest-established national organization in the United States for men and women of Italian descent. Established in 1905, OSIA has more than 600,000 members and supporters and a network of more than 745 chapters coast to coast. See