November 18th, 2011

Benetton plays kiss and dare

Benetton UnHate CampaignThose 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 unhate 03Benetton will also unveil the UnHate Dove, a four-​meter long install­a­tion by Fabrica’s Cuban artist Erik Ravelo made from empty bul­lets sent by people from war zones.

Benetton had defen­ded the pro­voc­at­ive cam­paign, stress­ing that its pur­pose was to stim­u­late debate on recon­cili­ation and medi­ation in polit­ics and religion.

Its aim was to “con­trast the cul­ture of hatred and pro­mote close­ness between peoples, faiths, cul­tures and the peace­ful under­stand­ing of each other’s motiv­a­tions. The cent­ral theme is the kiss, the most uni­ver­sal sym­bol of love.”

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