A kiss is a simple act.
It’s the touching of lips in an expression of affection, greeting or reverence. Cultures around the world use a kiss as a form of greeting, a form of expressing gratitude, peace and love.
So it is understandable why United Colors of Benetton chose the act of kissing as the focal point of its 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.”
Alessandro Benetton, executive deputy chairman of the Benetton Group, said in an interview with the Economic Times, “a kiss is a statement of tolerating the differences in another. We expect the true message to be conveyed through our campaign.”
Kissing isn’t the first theme I would think of for a tolerance campaign, but whatever.
The idea for their print ads stemmed from the now iconic photo of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German President Erich Honecker kissing as a sign of socialist solidarity- which, by the way, wasn’t considered a job perk by all- on the 30th anniversary of East Germany’s formation.
However, the Photoshopped images of prominent world leaders kissing each other were not as well received as Benetton creative agency Fabrica might have hoped.
Print ads posted around the world showed 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 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 Barack Obama smooching
Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
“The label is geared not to a specific target but to a collective one: well-heeled shoppers whom Benetton considers intellectually sophisticated enough to stop assailing them with “buy now”-type advertisements,” according to Benetton’s website.
If this were completely true, why have Benetton’s sales only risen 2 percent in the past 10 years? In the United States alone, Benetton sales dropped from 12 percent in 2000 to 4 percent at the end of 2010.
Could their lack of sales have something to do with their advertising campaigns?
United Colors of Benetton has a history of compiling controversial and provocative advertising campaigns. Their slow sales could be a major factor in their decision to launch yet another shock advertising campaign. We get it. These campaigns get the brand talked about. But audiences quickly rejected the images and deemed Benetton’s current campaign as “offensive” and took their opinions straight to Facebook.
If Benetton is taking an “any publicity is good publicity” approach to selling its products, research doesn’t agree entirely with that approach.
Researchers have found that shock advertising does in fact make campaigns more memorable and prompts consumers to take action, but has Benetton over-used their shock value?
The Brand Channel asked its readers if shock really sells a brand and the general consensus was that it might start talk, but it has nothing to do with selling sweaters.
We would love to hear your opinion on this campaign.
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