The end of the 1960s was an eventful time, particularly for young people. Including in Italy. The student movement was calming down, the sexual revolution in full swing, in Catholic Italy divorces were allowed, the red brigades killed the Home Secretary, Aldo Moro, the communists had the political majority in the country. The Italian youth (and all young people in general) longed for freedom and independence. The decision makers at Piaggio at the time saw 16 million Italian young people with a huge need for mobility. In both the cities and the country, to go to school, to work or simply to the ice cream parlour. And a noteworthy available annual income of 1000 million Lira. For the launch of the Vespa 50 Special 1969, a striking new advertising campaign was needed. Gilberto Filippetti from the Leader agency in Florence invented the famous slogan „Chi Vespa mangia le mele“. The advertising campaign behind this was to be one of the most famous of all time, a real icon in product marketing.
But what should the unusual sentence mean? The Italian mama likes to ask her son or daughter „Hai mangiato una mela?“ - „Have you eaten an apple?“. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away“. The advert played with the apple as a symbol for health, youth, summer and sun. But also as the temptation of the forbidden fruit of paradise. Big Apple New York. Urban and young. It is easy to be free (including from sickness) and doesn‘t cost that much. Why not pick an apple i.e. get a Vespa? The term „Vespa“ is used in this slogan very cheekily as a verb which actually doesn‘t exist at all. „I ride a Vespa“ simply becomes „I vespa“. Anyone who rides a Vespa is free, young, progressive and even slightly cheekier than all of the others. The trailer in brackets (chi non „Vespa“ no) reinforces the message even more: some are everything that the apple as a symbol represents - and the others are simply not. In 1971, the campaign was extended with the phrase „Melacompro una Vespa“. „I‘m going to buy myself a Vespa“. The first two syllables give the word „Mela“ = apple, a refined pun. The campaign continued until 1973. But even today the slogan and the apple as a symbol appear again and again with Piaggio. Furthermore, puns have a tradition at Vespa. Another campaign only featured the made up word „Vespizzatevi!“ which actually doesn‘t exist in Italian. Here a kind of imperative in the second person plural was made out of „Vespa“, as if the reflexive verb „Vespizzarsi“ exists in Italian. „Ride a Vespa!“ or „Everyone should ride a Vespa!“. But in fact, no extra request is necessary for this.
Many thanks to Robert Steiniger for providing the original posters.