“Power is nothing without control” is the slogan that for exactly 25 years has accompanied the Pirelli brand throughout the world. The company is thus dedicating its 2018 Annual Report to this famous catch phrase, celebrating its anniversary with stories by three international writers, a video and a series of photographic images which propose a few of its many possible interpretations.
The fortunate launch of the ‘Power is nothing without control’ campaign depicted Carl Lewis, photographed by Annie Leibowitz, in the classic position of a sprinter in the starting blocks while wearing high-heeled red shoes – an image which has become legendary. The photograph, taken in Texas in 1994 and an icon of advertising creativity, conveys a message that has lasted through the years because it is rooted in the product, the tire, and at the same time able to go beyond the limits of the material: in a car, as in life, “power is nothing without control”. A timeless reflection whose interpretations are inexhaustible because it has left it to the men and women of every era to find a point of balance between two seemingly contradictory elements.
This exercise in synthesis also involves the three American authors involved in the Pirelli’s 2018 Annual Report – Adam Greenfield, Lisa Halliday and J.R. Moehringer – with each proposing a personal interpretation of power and control in spheres also related to Pirelli: technology, sport and culture.
For Adam Greenfield, in a piece centered on technology, “the distinction between power and control ranks among the central challenges of our time. Our Promethean technologies offer us more and more power by the day, but the plain fact is that we haven’t yet learned how to control them.”
J.R. Moehringer, in his story dedicated to sport, writes: “We all make the mistake now and then of thinking the great athletes, actors, painters, doctors, entrepreneurs, et al., are gifted with special powers. In fact everyone has special powers. The ones who succeed are the ones who find ways of achieving durable, consistent control over their powers.
In “Hurrying Slowly”, a reflection on art and culture, Lisa Halliday states: “Art is a journey, a distance traveled by the consciousness. This is true for both artist and viewer, performer and audience, writer and reader. The power that propels such a journey is nothing without control because control is what harnesses artistic potential and directs it.
A video made by the Young&Rubicam agency, which 25 years ago came up with the Carl Lewis campaign, accompanies the three authors’ works. It depicts power as an interior force that pushes man to always go beyond and control as an indispensable factor in the achievement of any goal. The concepts contained in the video are also illustrated through a series of photographs that enrich the print version of the Annual Report.
“Power is nothing without control”: a story a quarter of a century old
The photograph of Carl Lewis with the headline “Power is nothing without control” opened the way for an advertising campaign that was so successful that to this day it continues to identify Pirelli.
Following on from Annie Leibowitz’s photograph, the following year Gerard di Thame directed a TV commercial in Carl Lewis runs a mad race full of special effects across the New York skyline. The final race’s images reveal the secret: the sole of Carl Lewis’s foot engraved with the tread pattern the Pirelli P6000 tire.
Pirelli entrusted its image to Carl Lewis until 1996. The following year, the French athlete Marie-José Pérec, then the fastest woman in the world, takes his place. The Pirelli commercial is set in a place of ice and lava with sea monsters, molten flows and other dangers from which the sprinter manages to escape once again wearing the tread of a Pirelli tire.
Then, 1998 was the year of Ronaldo, whose image from behind on the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro becomes an instant icon even outside the advertising world.
Pirelli Annual Report from culture to innovation
Since 2010, Pirelli’s Annual Report has undergone a transformation – thanks to the contribution of personalities from the worlds of art and culture of international standing – from “simple” reports to communication tools able to recount through different forms a year of company life. The 2010 Annual, for example, was illustrated with student photographs, inspired by the theme of sustainability, from Naba di Milano, while the following year, Pirelli’s Annual Report was enhanced with 18 illustrations by the graphic artist Stefan Glerum. In 2012, New Yorker cartoonist Liza Donnelly enriched the Annual Report and in 2013, instead, the author and screenplay writer Hanif Kureishi engaged ten young international talents to rework the idea of the “wheel” in the “Spinning the Wheel” project. In 2014, “street art” took centre stage in Pirelli’s Integrated Annual Report, with works from Brazil’s Marina Zumi, Germany’s Dome and Russia’s Alexey Luka, assembled into a single pyramid shaped display at Pirelli HangarBicocca. The next year Pirelli called upon the Russian artist Pokras Lampas, an exponent of modern calligraphy, to interpret the value of being “unique” through two things: handwriting and fingerprints. The volume was entitled “Every Mark is unique”. In 2017, in conclusion, Pirelli wanted to use the Annual Report to tell the story of the company’s digital transformation in “Data meets passion”, flanking Pirelli’s own story with those of those of five 4.0 artisans who used digital technologies to grow their companies. The volume’s artistic and literary content was the work of artist Emiliano Ponzi and three internationally recognized writers: Mohsin Hamid, Tom McCarthy and Ted Chiang.
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