Those who recall United Colors of Benetton’s advertising in the 90’s — which addressed the issues of AIDS, racism, animal rights and environmentalism and was shot by Italian fashion photographer Oliviero Toscani with provocative honesty — will not be surprised at the furor that has greeted their latest campaign.
Under the campaign line “UnHate”, Benetton has created an advertising campaign featuring political and religious leaders from different camps, embraced in a kiss. UnHate is also the name of the foundation Benetton has set-up to further the cause of the campaign.
The campaign was developed by Fabrica Italy and 72andSunny and includes a 60-second video directed by Laurent Chanez, which captures moments of intimacy, kissing and love entwined with moments of aggression, fighting and hate.
The posters feature the US President Barack Obama and the Chinese leader Hu Jintao; Barack Obama and the President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez, the Palestinian Authorities president Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu; North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak; the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The campaign has been met with outrage in some quarters of the media and the original set of posters included an image of Pope Benedict XVI and Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, Imam of the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, kissing until Benetton was formally asked by the Vatican to remove the image and threatened to sue.
“While global love is still a utopia, albeit a worthy one, the invitation ‘not to hate’, to combat the ‘culture of hatred’, is an ambitious but realistic objective.” Alessandro Benetton, Executive Deputy Chairman, Benetton Group
The company says that it will also commission groups of young people to post “manifestos”, featuring the kissing leaders, in Tel Aviv, New York, Rome, Milan and Paris.
Benetton has also launched the http://unhate.benetton.com/ website, which will house the images and videos from the campaign and UnHate events across the world as well as two apps, UnHate Kiss Wall and UnHate List. The first app matches two randomly selected photos from those uploaded to the platform and unites them in a kiss. The second is a user-generated list of people and things that are not hated.
Benetton had defended the provocative campaign, stressing that its purpose was to stimulate debate on reconciliation and mediation in politics and religion.