Benetton Group, an Italian global luxury fashion brand sparked media interest with controversial adverts this weekend.
The brand markets casual clothing with a provocative message of ‘United Colors’.
Benetton’s recent ‘Unhate’ campaign features pictures of world leaders kissing each other such as Pope Benedict XVI kissing Ahmed Mohamed el Tayeb, the imam of the Al Azhar mosque in Cairo, Egypt. The image offended the Vatican, Pope and Catholic Church who sought legal actions. Benetton has removed the ad and apologized for their lack of sensitivity. Also, the German Democratic Republic Erich Honecker and Soviet Union General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, the American President Barack Obama with the leader of China, Hu Jintao and then in another ad with the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez; the supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Il-sung and the President of South Korea, Lee Myung-bak, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy and the leaders of Palestinian and Israeli authority. The idea though is to battle the culture of hate in all forms.
These striking images created are not related to the company’s products. The aim is to convey in graphic terms, issues between shocking subjects. In the past, Benetton Group has publicized billboards about AIDS with a baby and umbilical cord, close up imagery of tattoos in relation to HIV, an electric chair, a collage of genitals with people from different backgrounds, a priest and nun during an engagement with passionate kiss, inmates on death row, an image of a boy with devil horns for hair, hearts with color names: ‘black’, ‘white’, ”yellow’ written onto them as well as a photo of a bloody t-shirt and pants with bullet holes from a soldier killed in the Bosnian War and colorful condoms in spirit of the Olympics.
Luciano Benetton believes that, ‘communication should not be commissioned from outside the company but conceived from within the heart’ as an advertising philosophy. The brand establishes value by capitalizing these images which it determined to have an impact on individuals. The brand frames the product from merchandise and manufacturing to make a social stance so that any individual can relate and share this common set of values. It promotes solidarity in society, having a shared vision.
United Colors of Benetton even illustrate skin tones from different countries with their sweater designs for encompassing notions of tolerance, peace and respect for diversity. The manipulation of colors is the one of the hallmarks of Benetton’s identity and industrial culture.
Overtime, Benetton received criticism for their work including the Mapuche organization who placed RFID tracking chips to monitor inventory which breached customar confidentiality and privacy as well as PETA boycotting wool used from farmers who practiced mulesing. Eventually, Benetton began to purchse nonmulesed wool and suggested to others in the wool industry to adopt those habits to have peace within the industry.
The Benetton Group currently markets clothing in 120 countries with 6,000 stores consisting of an Italian style of fashion apparel. Click on the hyperlink to view a gallery of the most controversial adverts.