To Hate or ‘Unhate’, That is Benetton’s Question

Discussion
Nov 18, 2011

“People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?” – Rodney King

In its latest attempt to take on weightier issues than fashion, the controversy seeking Benetton chain has launched a new ad campaign that uses computer altered photos of world leaders, often viewed as adversaries, kissing one another on the lips.

The ad that seemed to generate the highest level of howling involved Pope Benedict XVI and a prominent Islamic cleric, Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, Imam of the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo. Benetton made the decision to pull the ad after legal threats were made by the Vatican.

Alessandro Benetton, executive deputy chairman of Benetton, defended the “Unhate” campaign on the company’s blog.

“At this moment in history, so full of major upheavals and equally large hopes, we have decided, through this campaign, to give widespread visibility to an ideal notion of tolerance and invite the citizens of every country to reflect on how hatred arises particularly from fear of ‘the other’ and of what is unfamiliar to us. Ours is a universal campaign, using instruments such as the internet, the world of social media, and artistic imagination, and it is unique, in that it calls the citizens of the world to action.”

Some questioned the legality of the campaign since it uses individuals who have not given permission for their likenesses to be used.

“This is not a product advertising campaign. It makes no reference to our products,” Luca Biondolillo, a spokesperson for Benetton, told USA Today.

Discussion Questions: What is your reaction to the new Benetton campaign? Will it help the chain sell more clothing?

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20 Comments on "To Hate or ‘Unhate’, That is Benetton’s Question"


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George Whalin
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George Whalin
9 years 5 months ago

While the idea of encouraging leaders and people of the world to love rather than hate is admirable, these ads are simply in bad taste. This advertising campaign actually has little to do with encouraging “unhate.” It is all about creating attention for United Color of Benetton during the all-important holiday shopping season.

Phil Rubin
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

Benetton is trying to (re-) gain its brand relevance with this campaign by taking a page from their old playbook. It’s effective in getting them noticed again and their stand is a worthy one. The brand used to be provocative with their image advertising so it’s easy to see why they re-took this direction. The risk they take with provocative images is, for them, meritorious.

While I have no desire to see Obama and Chavez smooching (and Netanyahu and Abbas even less!), they have at least succeeded in getting noticed, written/talked about and will likely re-engage customers.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
9 years 5 months ago

There are those (I’m not one of them) that believe it’s better to be notorious than be forgotten and frankly, Benetton is a brand in danger of being forgotten.

I’m not one to shy away from taking chances but frankly, I just find this gratuitous. As a consumer I’d be more interested in knowing what Benetton is doing as a company to make the world a better place or how my aligning with their brand values makes me a better person. I don’t get any of that from this campaign.

Shock is easy. Defining a sense of legitimate social corporate purpose is much more difficult.

Hayes Minor
Guest
Hayes Minor
9 years 5 months ago

I may be in the minority here, but I’ve grown up with Benetton. Literally. And I can’t think of a single campaign of theirs that didn’t make people uncomfortable. It’s part of their brand essence and how they generate buzz.

Back in the ’80s, people were uncomfortable with Benetton models of different races holding hands. At least we’re not having that discussion anymore. Still, we’re all talking about this brand that continues to find and reveal cultural relevancies.

The real question at hand: Will this campaign drive shoppers to purchase?

Steve Montgomery
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

Benetton’s ads have succeeded in getting the company back in the headlines, however, most of the press coverage I have seen is at best neutral and most negative. HLN this morning was running a story about their withdrawal of the ads with the Pope kissing a top Egyptian imam after the Vatican objected to it. The White House has already issued its strong objection to the ad with the President kissing Hugo Chavez and Chinese president Hu Jinato. There are lots of theories about it being better to be noticed but I think this campaign crossed the line and I expect the impact to be negative.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
9 years 5 months ago

If their ads make people think that Benetton is creatively thinking out of the box, they will love Benetton; but if those ads make people really think, they’ll will become suspicious of Benetton. There is a difference between sincerely clever and pointedly cunning.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
9 years 5 months ago

Attention getting, yes. Shocking? No. What bothers me more than anything about this is the use of digitally altered photographs portraying things as happening that didn’t, and without permission. But, I guess re-purposing the images of world leaders to sell clothes is emblematic of where things stand today.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
9 years 5 months ago

A desperate act by a once-great company, bereft of any new ideas on how to regain relevance. Sad.

Kimberly Nasief-Westergren
Guest
Kimberly Nasief-Westergren
9 years 5 months ago

To me, this feels very staged. Let’s put something shocking out there for the sake of shocking. Use a non-profit foundation as the basis for the shock seems to be in poor taste. If the goal was to bring awareness to the foundation, this campaign seems to be a fail. It’s brought negative or apathetic responses to Benetton.

Warren Thayer
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

I agree with the basic thread here so far, in finding it gratuitous and seeking shock value. But I figured, hey, I’m not Benetton’s demographic. So I asked my son’s fiance, a left-leaning and with-it grad student, what she thought of it. She read the intro here, looked at the photo, and said “It’s just weird. I don’t like it.”

Cathy Hotka
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

While I applaud the sentiment, the photos are in appallingly bad taste. Weird.

Doug Fleener
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

This type of ad worked 15-20 years ago. Then again that’s about when Benetton was relevant.

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

Benetton understands that disruptive marketing is effective. I may assume that most of my colleagues and I are not Benetton’s targeted audience, so let’s not be too quick to judge.

On the other hand, perhaps this is an ad that Republicans and Democrats can both agree is repugnant.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

My reaction ?? Them…again ?? A number of commentors here have noted the (presumed) nobility of B’s cause – to the extent that one can call a platitude a cause – but I don’t even agree with that: people usually hate something for a reason – e.g. right now I hate Benetton – and while this often manifests itself inappropriately, to wish it away with a 6-letter word is to trivialize the underlying concern(s). I wish the Vatican well in their legal action.

Bob Houk
Guest
Bob Houk
9 years 5 months ago

I think Doug Fleener nailed it: “This type of ad worked 15-20 years ago. Then again that’s about when Benetton was relevant.”

This is a silly attempt by a dying brand to relive their glory days.

Lee Peterson
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

I love the idea of “fake controversy”. Abercrombie is a master of putting that to maximum use — latest example being the supposed offer to pay The Situation NOT to wear their fine garments. Look at all the free pub they got out of that. Hard to find someone who doesn’t know about it.

I also think the Benetton ad is a good message, one we could all use.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

1. Bad taste
2. It may get noticed but it won’t sell more clothes.

Tracey Croughwell
Guest
Tracey Croughwell
9 years 5 months ago

The best loved, ‘fanatic’ brands are authentic, and this just feels like a PR stunt. “Not a product advertising campaign”? Then their logo wouldn’t be on the ad. The brand has never felt very authentic to me… their brand is supposed to be about diversity, but the clothes are anything but. Short-term publicity is fine, but not worth it if it steals from the long-term brand value.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

I’m writing this with the benefit of time…reaction to the add has already spread. The only world leader who was quoted as being repulsed by the ad was the Pope. The ad has been pulled. What would Jesus do?

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
9 years 5 months ago

Benetton was once such a cool brand and their frequently controversial ad campaigns were at the heart of the brand mystique. Unfortunately the brand has lost its cachet and the latest campaign simply seems a desperate attempt at attention.

The sentiment of the campaign is wonderful, but the technique simply does not connect the message to the audience.

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