Benetton’s latest ad campaign features arresting images of world leaders locking lips. The Italian fashion group launched the ‘Unhate’ project yesterday, kicking off a series of printed and online ads showing recognisable figures in loving embrace.
Examples include US President Barack Obama smooching Chinese leader Hu Jintao, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel with French president Nicolas Sarkozy and the pope kissing an imam.
The clothing company has since apologised and withdrawn the image of the pope following complaints from the Vatican.
Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi is quoted in various sources.
“We must express the firmest protest for this absolutely unacceptable use of the image of the Holy Father, manipulated and exploited in a publicity campaign with commercial ends,” he said. “This shows a grave lack of respect for the Pope, an offence to the feelings of believers, a clear demonstration of how publicity can violate the basic rules of respect for people by attracting attention with provocation,” he said.
Benetton believes the “symbolic images of reconciliation” will encourage people of differing opinions to work together using dialogue and mediation.
The shocking campaign has been interpreted by some as an attempt to rekindle the brand’s bold image from the 80s and 90s following news this week that the group’s third quarter net profits dropped by 33% as costs rose and revenues slipped.
Benetton’s Unhate campaign was created by its ‘research communication centre’ Fabrica.