Benetton’s UNHATE Campaign Message Gets Lost

A kiss is a simple act.

It’s the touching of lips in an expression of affection, greeting or reverence. The Seattle Times reported that 90 percent of the world’s population takes part in the action, and Americans alone will spend two weeks of their lives doing nothing but kissing. Cultures around the world use a kiss as a form of greeting, a form of expressing gratitude, peace and love.

It makes sense that United Colors of Benetton chose kissing as the focal point of the new UNHATE campaign, aimed at “contrasting the culture of hatred and promoting closeness between peoples, faiths, cultures, and the peaceful understanding of each other’s motivations.”

Unfortunately, no one understood their decision to depict prominent world leaders kissing each other.

Print ads were posted all around the world of various world leaders kissing each other with simple white copy reading, “United Colors of Benetton supports the Unhate Foundation.”  The most controversial of the ads showed Pope Benedict XVI lip-locked with prominent Muslim leader Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb.

The Vatican protested and demanded Benetton remove the ads, claiming these ads “violate elementary rules of respect for people in order to attract attention through provocation.”

Images of the Pope were removed the day after they were unveiled.

The White House issued a statement declaring that the use of the president’s image for commercial gain has always been frowned upon, but they have not considered legal action or demanded Benetton remove all images of President Obama smooching Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

“These are symbolic images of reconciliation – with a touch of ironic hope and constructive provocation – to stimulate reflection on how politics, faith and ideas, even when they are divergent and mutually opposed, must still lead to dialogue and mediation,” said Alessandro Benetton, executive deputy chairman of the Benetton Group, in a press release issued last week.

While the idea behind the campaign defends its use of world leaders and the actions the Benetton Group’s creative company Photoshopped the leaders to partake in, not everyone see’s the advertisements as an genuine call for positive action.

Dr. Keith Ablow with Fox News stated, “The only psychological interpretation of such ads that makes sense to me as a psychiatrist is that the corporate leaders at Benetton literally believe that homosexual sex between world leaders — or at least homosexuality, as an orientation — would lead to world peace.”

That’s a bit of a stretch isn’t it? While the advertisements do depict world leaders kissing, making the leap to “homosexual sex…will lead to world peace” is a far-fetched notion.

Unfortunately closed-minded far-stretched opinions such as these have given this campaign a worse reputation than it deserves.

“At Benetton, heterosexuality and faith are now linked to all the problems in our troubled world, problems that can be reversed if men in positions of leadership would just yield to their innate desires to have sex with each other,” continues Ablow, who earlier this year also ridiculed J.Crew Creative Director Jenna Lyons for painting her sons toe nails pink.

United Colors of Benetton has a history of compiling extremely controversial and provocative advertising campaigns in the past. This campaign in particular was wasted on an under-cultured, narrow-minded audience which quickly rejected it and deemed it “offensive.”

Given the company’s history and its shocking content, viewers should have taken to the Internet for research rather than complain about something that had deeper reasoning and meaning behind it.

A large fashion house like Benetton wouldn’t put its name on an advertisement unless it wholeheartedly believed the message and the creative reasoning behind the print.

“A kiss is a statement of tolerating the differences in another. We expect the true message to be conveyed through our campaign,” Benetton said in an interview with the Economic Times.

Such a simple meaning, such a simple action, such a simple message- UNHATE, lost on a world that needs the message the most.

Other Helpful Links:

View the full set of photos here.
Take a look at other things the UNHATE foundation is doing.
Put your own photo on the Kiss Wall.
Watch the short UNHATE film.

Originally Dec 7, 2011 @ 20:28

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