Italy's 'virtual influencer' Venus is 2023's cringiest tourism campaign

Birth of Venus influencer
(Image credit: Venere Italia on Instagram)

Influencer campaigns can be fraught with challenges, so the Italian tourism board probably thought it was on to a winner when it came up with the idea of a virtual influencer. And the star in question is none other than one of the world's most famous works of art. 

Italy's Ministry of Tourism has brought Venus Anadyomene from Botticelli's Birth of Venus to life as a 30-year-old Instagram travel blogger touring Italy's 'most fantastic places and venues'. But despite racking up thousands of followers, nobody seems to have a nice thing to say about her (see our pick of the best print adverts for more inspiring campaigns).

We've seen tourism boards lapping up contemporary trends lately (see Visit Denmark's AI paintings). Now Italy's going all in on the travel influencer trend, with Botticelli's Venus (Venere in Italian), who's left the Uffizi Gallery in Florence to travel the country.

Like any self-respecting travel influencer, she has an Instagram account where she shares tips on what to eat and even hosts logo reveals. Describing herself as a "worldwide Renaissance icon and Italy lover," she has over 60K followers, and the haters just can't help themselves (I guess the fame and free hotel stays will always make some envious.)

Some, including art historian Livia Garomersini, say Venere is cheapening Italy's artistic heritage, while others are appalled at the stilted copywriting, which, judging by the comments, is no better in Italian than it is in the dodgy translations. Others still are ridiculing Venere's fast and loose use of B-roll, with one of her videos apparently featuring footage of Slovenia being passed off as Italy (to be honest, it sounds to me like she's got the travel influencer role down to a tee).

"STO MALE DAL CRINGE," one person wrote on Venere's first Instagram post, which I believe translates as something like "I'm sick with cringe". Others suggest the campaign's slogan, which declares Italy 'open to meraviglia' (open to wonder), should be changed to 'open to cringe'.

"Everything is so so bad, the name venere23, the voice, the images, the commercial that really leaves you speechless," someone else wrote. "If you paid people to do this, you first blindfolded them, spun them around several times, turned them upside down and then made them work... it's one of the few explanations I can give myself," was another comment from sometime trying to understand what they were seeing. Someone pointed out that there wasn't a single positive comment on the post, and they appear to be right. And then there's that logo design...

To be fair, the idea here is clever and nice and simple, but the execution does feel a little weak. "A green, white and red flag to promote Italy? Pure avant garde," one person jests in the comments. "Why does this sound so much like something a Boomer who wants to feel young and hip, but ends up taking a double chin selfie to put as a profile pic on Facebook with the caption 'just me'?!?" someone else asks, and we're just loving that analogy. 

"There's still time, cancel everything," someone suggests. While someone else is calling for the kind of mass action that until now has been reserved for Sonic the Hedgehog. "Sonic's character design change in the 2020 film teaches us that bullying those who make similar mistakes can be a solution," one person claims. Or maybe Italy should just hire Sonic (or they could learn from our character design tips).

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design, production and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.