United Colors of Benetton is no newcomer to shockvertising, where the advertiser deliberately aims to provoke and infuriate people. Many recall the work Benetton did in the 90′s with Italian fashion photographer Oliviero Toscani where their campaign addressed AIDS, racism, animal rights, and environmental issues.
In their latest campaign, the clothing retailer’s set up a site/foundation and built buzz by disseminating 6 images of political leaders locking lips. These images have become the focus of mainstream media as well as the blogosphere, most of which completely ignore the larger brand statement that Benetton is making.
According to Times of India, Benetton’s chairman commented
The images are very strong, but we have to send a strong message. We don’t want to be disrespectful of the leaders…we consider them ‘conceptual figures’ making a statement of brotherhood with a kiss.
Looking at the campaign as a whole, one begins to see the 6 controversial images as ways of provoking/inviting people into the rest of the campaign. The video below, for example, reveals more of Benetton’s overarching goal.
Moreover, Benetton is planning the launch of anti-hate initiatives in fragile locations like Palestine/Israel and the Brazilian favelas. In a bold statement on the foundation website, the brand asserts that they seek:
to contribute to the creation of a new culture of tolerance, to combat hatred, building on Benetton’s underpinning values. It is another important step in the group’s social responsibility strategy: not a cosmetic exercise, but a contribution that will have a real impact on the international community, especially through the vehicle of communication, which can reach social players in different areas.
This campaign has cause much media outrage, and the Vatican has formally requested the image depicting an Imam in embrace with the Pope, be removed.