Italian sweater company Benetton has pulled a poster of the Pope kissing an Egyptian Iman. And it reportedly shelved a kiss between Pakistan’s and India’s leaders.
The company has a long history of using provocative advertising campaigns as their Unique Selling Point (USP). In the 80s a poster of a dying person with AIDS caused enormous controversy but was credited with transforming the public’s perception of people living with AIDS. Another in the 90s of a baby, bloodied with umbilical cord attached, drew the most complaints ever to the British Advertising Standards Authority. Kissing isn’t new either, a 90s poster had a nun and a priest kissing.
The brand was one of the first to feature multicultural models in its advertising and to have its own magazine, ‘Colors’.
The new photoshopped campaign, ‘UnHate‘, features President Obama kissing Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, the North and South Korean leaders and in the only opposite gender ‘kiss’German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s President Nicholas Sarkozy.
The Pope is kissing Sheik Ahmed el Tayeb, who earlier in the year stopped talking with the Vatican after the Pope condemned widespread violence and discrimination against Christian minorities in predominately Muslim countries.
The Vatican complained about “a serious lack of respect for the Pope”, and Benetton immediately withdrew the posters.
Alessandro Benetton said the images were meant to promote the idea of “unhate” (“which is not as utopian as love”) and should not be seen in a physical or sexual context.
The posters are “symbolic images of reconciliation – with a touch of ironic hope and constructive provocation – to stimulate reflection on how politics, faith and ideas, when they are divergent and mutually opposed, must still lead to dialogue and mediation” Benetton says.
But fashion watchers say that it is a bit late for what is now a tired brand, overtaken by others.
Says The Independent:
The trouble is, in the shifting sands of what’s hot and what’s not, brands can’t just hang in there waiting for their USP to come round again.
Picture from Benetton 'UnHate'
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