A Fake Radio Ad turns into a real company: The history of Fumagazzi Watches, Born Unicorn.

An invented brand, out of a fake radio ad, draws the attention of a listener who, leveraging on social networks, turns the spot into a real enterprise, and a great Xmas ecommerce success. With a tricky idea: to close shop after Valentine’s Day, just to remain “a real marketing case-study”

“The idea came up driving on the highway, listening to the 105 Zoo radio show [the most politically incorrect, airwave-suspended, sanctioned radio show in Italy]. That day, they were airing a bunch of fake, eighties’-style advertisements, those that make fun of early commercial TV ads”. One of those claims was the “Fumagazzi watches”, with the claim ‘Only for the good guys’ [which rhymes in Italian: “Fumagazzi solo per Bravi Ragazzi”]. “I felt like the radio host was genuinely bemused, so I decided to act “, says Giorgio Pertusati, entrepreneur and co-founder (together with Riccardo Maria Mantero, an IT executive at a major Italian bank), of the Orologi Fumagazzi, among the very few companies in the world to be born after their commercial went on the air.

Overnight from the show, they have already registered web domains and brands, then they contacted a Venetian artisan (Chronovenice) who makes the products and sells them via its ecommerce platform. Within three weeks, the Fumagazzi Brothers have had up and running a full-fledged, small-scale luxury watches brand.

“The guys from the Zoo” – says Marcello Fumagazzi, Pertusati’s nickname – “took it very easy at first. The day after, our website was going live, so I sent an email out of the blue to the editor’s staff telling them to check it out on air, and that same day the show opened talking about us”. The fake commercial continued to be aired for few days, and more ads of Fumagazzi gags were added later on. Meanwhile, the emails and contacts on the site were peaking by the tenths of thousands. “The radio was pushing a merry-go-round, and we were the only ones to know the potential”, underlines Pertusati. “We intercepted a wave, noticed an opportunity: few days later, when we received the call from the show’s manager, we asked them to let us continue. Until then, neither the radio nor the show were mentioned in our funny website, so no one could prove that we were leveraging or abusing their brand”

“Now, some common ground has been found”, explains the entrepreneur. The name of the famous radio broadcast appears on the Fumagazzi Watches homepage, and previews of the watches’ models are posted on the Instagram stories of the 105 Zoo’s crew: “We have carte blanche on the product, there has been no contract and they’re not shareholders of the company: for Mediaset [owner of Radio 105 and part of the Berlusconi media conglomerate] Fumagazzi is a social marketing experiment “.

1,500 Fumagazzi watches were sold in less than a month so far, 15 days before Christmas, Pertusati says, but the feeling is that they would have been many more if only the right stock was available: “We would have easily reached 5 thousand,” he says. In the meantime, some other models have been added tot he initial lineup, and the first women’s models are appearing in the store, even if the co-founder reveals the desire to close shop just after Valentine’s Day: “A case remains a case only if it blooms out and then fades away soon”.

The lesson of Cacao Meravigliao

It’s not the first time that a fake commercial in Italy generates a business idea. “Thirty-five years ago” – remembers Pertusati – “it was Cacao Meravigliao’s turn: Renzo Arbore, in one of his brilliant TV shows, broadcast the advertising of a fictionary Cocoa brand. The show was so hugely popular, housewives were searching for it on the store shelves. He had to go onstage and explain that the product didn’t exist” [someone made it finally for sale, but without commercial success].

The difference here is that watches have a much higher unit value than cocoa – the Fumagazzi price list spans between 150 and 1,500 euros – and thanks to ecommerce and pre-ordering, a business idea becomes less risky and more profitable: the forecast turnover could reach half a million US$ in few weeks.

“The Venetian craftsmen we hired to build the models collaborate already with many famous brands,” he reveals. “We rely on them and we rely on their online platform to sell Fumagazzi: we already count many thousand pre-orders, and it’s just the beginning.”

Both founders have their daytime jobs to run, too… more than money, the dream is “to make some noise and a bit of marketing history: we hope that there will be a “before Fumagazzi” and an “after Fumagazzi”. Just as today we remember the old time’s Cacao Meravigliao, we hope that in the future people may think about us when a fantasy spot is aired on the radio or the TV”. A story of ‘good guys’ who became entrepreneurs, and that of “Velox”, “CentoCambiali” or “Topalopa” watches sold by the thousands to make fun of a self-bespoken market, but without kidding too much.

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