What is luxury? An opening question that only seemingly generates a simple and obvious answer. Most people associate luxury with the big names in fashion, but fashion is the furthest thing from luxury. Sure, fashion is fascinating! It manages to turn a necessary commodity like a shirt that serves to cover oneself or a bag that serves to carry things into objects of desire. But desire for whom? Desire for what? If luxury is not fashion, what does theinfluencer Chiara Ferragni in this glittering merry-go-round? An 'atheistic reflection' on a day that deserves to be called historic in that it sets a fundamental precedent in the advertising regulation of these content creators who - if they could - would sell their grandmother, but who - in reality - do not even sell a Balocco Pandoro. In the true sense of the term. Pandoro Balocco - Chiara Ferragni is a media case of rare squalor, but it should be read for what it is: the tip of the iceberg of influencer marketing.

Influencer or content creator?

In mass culture, an influencer is an often untalented individual who 'influences' his followers through viral content. Like a virus. And viruses are not usually paid to infect people, although some claim that they are actually paid by Big Pharma. Oh my God!!! Is it not like a Big Armani is behind the Christmas cake plot? Or a Big Dior? 

Jokes aside, every expert in a field who enjoys a good reputation and has a following, be it large or small, is potentially an influencer. Therefore, giving a negative connotation to this term is about as nonsensical as it gets. The qui pro quo has been created by content creators - i.e. paid content creators. And let's be clear: getting paid for the work of creating content in proportion to the size of one's audience is more than legitimate. Less legitimate is not specifying that it is paid content by wrapping it up with 'I only promote things I like'. Oh yeah? So if the owner of the Pippo winery comes along and offers you a few k's to promote a wine that I wouldn't wash the duck I'm going to eat tomorrow night with, you don't reel him in? Really really? OK, I pretend to believe it and pretend not to see the labels I see on certain profiles. One problem remains: it is illegal to charge for content and not clearly specify that it is paid content.

To say 'I only promote the wines I like' is colossal rubbish and doesn't even make sense: promote those who pay you well and don't give a damn because you are just a testimonial. You are exactly like the hottie with 2 metres of legs and her tits out next to the convertible car. And there's nothing wrong with that: she's paid too. And you, like her, are needed for a specific target audience. Do you want to be more than a testimonial? You want your opinion to have real value? You don't get paid. There is no such thing as a full house and a drunk wife. And Chiara Ferragni is no exception: she is a testimonial and sells her image to those who pay her well, very well indeed. And who cares if Pandoro Balocco is qualitatively worth what it costs (very little). 

Pandoro balocco chiara ferragni fine

Chiara Ferragni's Pandoro Balocco: the instrumentalised message

The problem, in fact, is neither in the questionable quality of Pandoro Balocco nor in the - I repeat sacrosanct - role of Chiara Ferragni as its testimonial. The problem is in taking a Pandoro Balocco normally sold at less than €4, pricing it at over €9, and stuffing the price difference with a bit of Christmas do-goodism of a so-so per kg. The message? Buy and give Pandoro Balocco Pink Christmas to donate useful machines to children with cancer. So consumers - thanks to a smoky and unclear communication - were led to believe that the price difference was in fact due to the donation to the Regina Margherita Hospital in Turin.

In reality, Balocco S.p.A. did indeed make a donation to enable the purchase of a machine, but many months before the Christmas campaign. That is, Chiara Ferragni's campaign has nothing to do with this donation as the amount has already been donated and is not proportional to the sale. And Chiara Ferragni and her team knew it all along, but they chose to instrumentalise the donation to leverage people's pre-Christmas goodness to sell more Pandoro Balocco where, the price difference, apparently stems from the need to pay the testimonial Chiara Ferragni since nothing will be further donated to the hospital.

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Pandoro Balocco Chiara Ferragni: antitrust fine + Codacons

The Antitrust Authority got even: almost one and a half million total fine, broken down as €1,075,000 for Chiara Ferragni (€400,000 for Fenice S.r.l. + €675,000 for TBS Crew S.r.l.) and €420,000 for Balocco S.p.A. Also hop in the saddle Codacons: 'Chiara Ferragni will be called to answer for the possible crime of aggravated fraud, with the request to seize her companies' accounts to protect claims by consumers who bought the designer pandoro. Why was Balocco S.p.A. fined less than Chiara Ferragni? Apparently, it was the influencer's team that 'tweaked' the press release of the Balocco Pink Christmas pandoro:

Excerpt from the press release proposed by Balocco S.p.A:

"The historical Piedmontese brand Balocco, recognised and appreciated worldwide for the excellence of its Christmas offer, presents an exclusive novelty created in collaboration with Chiara Ferragni: Pandoro #PinkChristmas. [...] With this product, Balocco and Chiara Ferragni support research against childhood tumours, financing a research project promoted by the Regina Margherita Hospital in Turinthrough the purchase of a new machine that will allow new avenues for the therapeutic treatment of children suffering from Osteosarcoma and Ewing's Sarcoma to be explored'.

Excerpt from the press release edited by the Chiara Ferragni team:

"The historical Piedmontese brand Balocco, recognised and appreciated worldwide for the excellence of its Christmas offer, presents an exclusive novelty: the Chiara Ferragni Pandoro, whose sales will be used to finance a research project promoted by the Regina Margherita Hospital in Turinthrough the purchase of a new machine that will allow new avenues for the therapeutic treatment of children suffering from Osteosarcoma and Ewing's Sarcoma to be explored'.

Let's be clear: Balocco S.p.A. is not a victim of Chiara Ferragni: they used a previous donation to convey an advertising message to justify the more than doubled price of Pandoro.

According to the Antitrust Authority, the unfair practice to the detriment of consumers and potential consumers that earned both players almost 1.5 million in fines was:

  1. make believe that by purchasing Pandoro Pink Christmas at the price of 9 € instead of 3.70 € for the same Pandoro not signed by Chiara Ferragni, the consumer would have directly contributed to the donation, which in reality had already been made by Balocco S.p.A. alone with a fixed amount in May 2022, i.e. 6 months before the advertising campaign conducted by Chiara Ferragni in November 2022;
  2. having disseminated in the cartouche affixed to each Pink Christmas Pandoro information capable of supporting the (untrue) claim that the purchase of the product would have contributed to the advertised donation;
  3. posting content on Chiara Ferragni's social channels where it was implied that by buying Pandoro Pink Christmas you were directly contributing to the donation and that Chiara Ferragni was personally participating in the donation.
Pandoro balocco pink Christmas

Now, if we want to be honest, it is not so important who started this feel-good theatre: what really matters is the result. And the result is a communication that is not at all unclear to the consumer since anyone, but really anyone and including the employees of the Santa Margherita Hospital in Turin, understood that the amount donated would be a function of sales and in no public communication of Chiara Ferragni or Balocco S.p.A. appears the reference to the donation made months earlier and therefore disconnected from Christmas sales. So who cares who invented what: in any case both sides are complicit in fooling consumers. Chiara Ferragni defends herself by saying that the one with Balocco S.p.A. is an advertising campaign like many others and that she does a lot of charity work anyway. This makes me smile. While I am convinced that it is important to publicly display charity as it is a way to make people aware of the importance of donating time, things, or money, using children with cancer to sell pandoro with an inflated price tag is just shameful. Regardless of how much charity is given each year, there is no justification.

The companies owned by Chiara Ferragni collected more than EUR 1 million for the use of her image and for creating the content of the Pandoro Balocco Pink Christmas advertising campaign without paying anything to the Regina Margherita Hospital in Turin. Interesting to read this article by Selvaggia Lucarelli on 14 December 2022.

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The queen is naked!

Now, I am sure that there are many people who bought the Pandoro Balocco Pink Christmas because it was signed by Chiara Ferragni independently of the donation. Chiara Ferragni embodies the idea of fashion luxury, an idea for people from the middle or lower classes who are unable to make money and need to prove their status through a designer bag or a designer pandoro. And who cares if the bag is plastic (oops, tarpaulin) or the pandoro is no good! We are talking about people who barely make ends meet but are ravaged by consumerism, who buy designer clothes on installments thanks to those geniuses at Klarna and the like, who flaunt holidays they cannot afford. Let's say it: social networks are also somewhat to blame for selling these narcissistic souls to those devils of advertisers. They, poor things, are just trying to perpetuate the pissing contest they had since childhood or trying to find their value in the mirror that reflects their images. Chiara Ferragni and content creators like her are just smarter: they only wear their 'brand' prominently if they are paid, as they do not need someone else's name in plain sight to find a place in the world.

And luxury, the real kind, is not buying a designer bag or a designer pandoro. Luxury is designing the bag or the pandoro of one's dreams, choosing the best raw materials and hiring the best tailor or the best confectioner to have it made. And to donate, concretely, one's money, belongings or time to do good for the community in which one lives.

We are in an era where even charity has become a disposable consumer good, to be liquidated in the gesture of paying €9 for a designer Balocco pandoro. Frankly, for me, even consumers - cheated or not - are accomplices and I would give nothing to them, other than freezing Chiara Ferragni's accounts as Codacons has proposed.

"The queen is naked!" What shall we do, ladies and gentlemen? Pretend to see her fashionable clothes in order not to admit our mistake of worshipping her regardless just because of her role as queen? Mass defollowing to regain our lost dignity? To start following real influencers - from any sector - and not just any content creators masquerading as influencers thanks to a number of too often bought followers? A gesture of true altruism that does not result in the quick purchase of yet another designer pandoro with which to make a good impression, both for the designer label and the (supposed) donation?

Fortunately, posterity will be the judge of that, not me, as I am not at all optimistic about the ending of this story.

What is certain is that, even a year later, Chiara Ferragni has managed to give Pandoro Balocco exaggerated visibility. Some would say 'good or bad as long as it's talked about', but I don't think so. What do you think?