Advertisement campaigns are all about nabbing peoples' attention. This is precisely the reason why many companies utilize sex appeal, among other stimulating imagery, to try and attract prospective clients and consumers. It may also be the reason that Benetton, an Italian clothing and retail company, has launched "Unhate," a new ad campaign that includes billboards showing unlikely political and religious leaders engaging in bizarre (and fake) lip-locks.
Apparently the controversial images are nothing new for Benetton, a company that Ad Age claims has always been known for its polarizing advertisements. In the past, the company has focused upon race relations, war and AIDS, among other subjects.
Still, regardless of previous campaigns, these new pictures may draw the ire of religious people, as a number of controversial themes are combined. First and foremost, the individuals depicted are all men, thus they are showcasing homosexual smooches. Even if critics are willing to look past this detail, the fact that religious leaders were used is certainly ruffling some feathers.
Some familiar names can be seen engaged in the kisses. President Barack Obama and Chinese leader Hu Jintao engage in a passionate, Photoshopped lip-lock. Also, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas kiss passionately. And then there's Pope Benedict XVI and Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb (head of the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo). This last image is likely to anger both Muslims and Catholics.
The Catholic Church is infuriated over the image of the Pope, which appears to no longer be present on the company's web site. The Star has more:
The Vatican on Wednesday protested to Italian clothing firm Benetton over its use of an image of Pope Benedict kissing an imam on the mouth in its latest shock advertising campaign.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi called the unauthorised and "manipulative" use of the pope's picture in the photo montage "totally unacceptable" and suggested it might take legal action against the company.
Later today, the company announced that the ad featuring the Pope will be pulled. The AP reports: "The Benetton clothing company has withdrawn an ad showing Pope Benedict XVI kissing a top Egyptian imam on the lips after the Vatican denounced it as an 'unacceptable' provocation."
Stuff.co.nz currently has the controversial picture on its web site:
Of course, the clothing company has its reasons (it claims) for using these images that transcend shock value. Apparently, the company wants to send a message about promoting tolerance between individuals who differ greatly. If that's the case, one wonders -- why not depict a simple hand shake? The answer is obvious: It wouldn't offer up anywhere near as much shock value.
While Ad Age claims that the ads have been rejected by some outlets, they will still appear in The Economist, New York Magazine and Newsweek, among others publications.
People who are interested in the campaign can also upload pictures of themselves kissing to a special Benetton web site. There's even a short film to accompany the campaign, which is also called "Unhate." Watch it, here:
(H/T: Ad Age)