Years ago Benetton, the Italian clothing firm used to run controversial ads. They started being in some way relevant to the product. Benneton sold bright colored clothing and the ads reflected a loose colors theme. For example, one campaign featured The Queen retouched to look like she came from African descent, another a Chinese Pope Jean Paul.
I could logically work back the connection from there, ‘Ok yes… United Colors of Benneton… we’re all the same under the skin… bringing people of different races and colors together …” I’m sure the campaign was offensive to old religious people and monarchists, which is exactly what you want if you’re selling clothes to teens and twenty something’s. Then the connection became more tenuous. I remember one poster featured a man dying of AIDS surrounded by his family.
It seemed gratuitous. If Benneton really wanted to show how it brought people together ,why didn’t it back an AIDS awareness campaign? Or put large amounts of money into AIDS hospices in Africa? Maybe they did but I never heard about it.
Now they’re back with a new ‘controversial’ campaign featuring famously opposed leaders like Abbas and Netanyahu or Obama and Hu Jintao kissing, under the campaign theme ‘Unhate’.
They also have an online Kissing wall you can upload yourself kissing someone and guerilla media street teams hanging ‘Kissing Leaders’ posters all over major world cities.
OK Benetton, well all you’ve succeeded in doing is making me angry. You don’t want to change things or stand up for something. Why not do something actually radical like donating money to charities dedicated to bringing people together every time someone upload something to your ‘kissing wall’ ? That’s still going to appeal to your target. It’ll still sell sweaters but it won’t seem quite as empty as this campaign. In fact, ‘Unhate’ has done the reverse of what it purports and turned me into a hater.