They said/We said: Benetton continues their advertising shock tactics but will it get people to buy their clothes?

United Colors of Benetton, the Italian retailer known more for its controversial ads throughout the ‘80s and ’90s than its multicoloured knits, is trying to get back on the radar by doing what they know best—shock advertising.

Their newest ads, part of their new Unhate campaign, features famous political figures making out, including Barack Obama kissing Chinese leader Hu Jinato and the Pope locking lips with Egyptian imam Mohamed Ahmed el-Tayeb. It’s rumoured that Oliviero Toscani, the brainchild behind their past controversial campaigns—some of which include a photo of a baby with its umbilical cord still attached (incidentally the most complained about ad in history) and a priest kissing a nun—is behind the new ads.

It’s being reported that the ads are part of a three-fold plan to relaunch the Benetton brand, in hopes that the retailer will become relevant again. Sure, the ads are creating buzz, but will they work to boost Benetton’s sales in a market that includes fast-fashion giants H&M and Zara? The odds are against them if their clothes continue to be lackluster.


Alessandro Benetton, deputy chairman of Benetton Group: “It means not hating. In a moment of darkness, with the financial crisis, what’s going on in North African countries, in Athens, this is an attitude we can all embrace that can have positive energy.” [Wall Street Journal]

UNHATE Foundation: The UNHATE Foundation, desired and founded by the Benetton Group, seeks to contribute to the creation of a new culture of tolerance, to combat hatred, building on Benetton’s underpinning values. It is another important step in the group’s social responsibility strategy: not a cosmetic exercise, but a contribution that will have a real impact on the international community, especially through the vehicle of communication, which can reach social players in different areas.” [Benetton]

Refinery29: “Now… everybody make out!” [Refinery29]


Nicole Stafford, photo editor: “They are definitely provocative images and surprising at first glance, I love the graininess and how real they look. It’s definitely an interesting concept and a positive message overall. The images are in the Benneton shock style of advertising, although I don’t know if this will actually have any influence on whether I walk into a United Colors of Benneton store in the future.”

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