Thursday, November 17, 2011


The new Benetton ad campaign titled 'Unhate' featuring digitally altered photos of world leaders kissing each other is causing a firestorm in Rome for depicting the Pope kissing an imam. It has no doubt also caused discomfort for other public figures, such as Barack Obama who is depicted kissing both China and Venezuela's leaders, no doubt making Michelle more than a tad uncomfortable.

Benetton is known for making controversial ad campaigns. Which is probably better than the overpriced dull clothes it makes. It's disappointing, however, to see a clothes company try to make use of what should be an inspirational message of tolerance to sell their cheap wares.

If you remove the shock value of the pictures themselves, the ultimate message isn't inspirational; it's confusing. On the one hand, love is not quite the emotion that the company is trying to get at. Tolerance, understanding and open relations can be depicted in other ways than lip locks. Why they didn't opt for something more simple and acceptable like shaking hands, a gesture which shows concilation and cooperation, is beyond me. Of course, there's no shock value in hand shaking, so the lip locking is the way that they decided to go. And I'm sure that the clothing company doesn't want to be mistaken for the UN which actually works on conciliation and not sweaters.

On the other hand, there's no clear indication that any of these people actually hate each other in real life. While many of these factions are at odds, they don't actively 'hate' each other. It would be counteractive for them to hate each other, as a matter of fact, because they share the world stage and often have to find ways to work together. Hating something or someone means that you actively wish for their destruction. And while Christians and Muslims don't exactly like each other, the Pope isn't actively gunning for imams.

An Unhate campaign around issues of racial tolerance and sexual orientation may be more appropriate, but those issues would require subtlety, tact and reason, while the company opted for cheap shock. I don't hate this campaign, but I definitely feel a strong unlike for it.

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