Benetton Campaign Uses Digital Manipulation to Stir Controversy (Again)

A digital manipulation of Obama kissing Hugo Chavez for Benetton's new "unhate" campaign.

File this under Marketers Who Will Do Anything to Sell Product: Benetton has unveiled a new ad campaign that includes an image of Barack Obama in a lip lock with Chinese leader Hu Jintao, another image of Obama kissing Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, and several other images of different world leaders kissing each other on the lips.

The images are part of the clothing brand’s new “Unhate” campaign, which it unveiled today in Paris and other cities.

Alessandro Benetton, who is the company’s executive deputy chairman, says Benetton means no disrespect to the world leaders, whose passionate kisses are obviously the handiwork of digital retouchers.

“We consider [the leaders] ‘conception figures’ making a statement of brotherhood with a kiss,” he said in an interview, according to the Times of India.

Yeah, yeah. Whatever.

Back in the 90s, Benetton created ad campaigns with controversial images– including a photograph of a nun kissing a priest–to attract attention by whipping up social controversy.

10 Responses to “Benetton Campaign Uses Digital Manipulation to Stir Controversy (Again)”

  1. James Says:

    I’m confused by this concept – does Obama not need to give permission? Or is this somehow construed as a social criticism protected by fair use / free speech? So, it is basically a brand ad that is hiding behind fair use? Or did Obama give permission?

  2. Ambrose Pierce Says:

    Yeah, advertising is an easy target. However, if you look at the flip side, I think Benetton is the only company to have the courage to put themselves out there by making politically controversial statements in their ad campaigns. If you think they’re going to sell more clothes as a result, it can be just as easily argued that they are going to lose sales because of the powerful elite they offend. They are taking a risk in an effort to make a social statement, unlike the vast majority of insipid advertising campaigns we are accustomed to ignoring.

  3. MD Says:

    Really? Really? That’s all YOU got?
    If YOU weren’t so frakkin DESPERATE to print LIES, or had half of a brain, YOU would stop to think & remember WE DON’T DISCRIMINATE.

    -PDN this is not towards you.

  4. Naheed Says:

    Taking everything seriously is bad for your health. Try to just sit back and relax sometimes. This ad is a satire, nothing more, nothing less. It may be distasteful but it is not real so just get over it.

  5. Leon Says:

    eerrrrr, not sure about this one

  6. Andrés Gómez Salazar Says:

    Benetton has always come out with campaigns around controversy with themes like “Death penalty” “Racism” “Abortion” and many others. It’s a risk not to pay a top model with a beach house in a tropical island to make a statement in the fashion industry. But does the strategy they use sell their product work? Or do they pay a price creating a brand around a social statement that has little o or nothing to do with a clothing brand?
    I see this as a very risky idea that may end in huge legal chaos for the add agency, the owner of the rights to the photos and Benetton. I don’t think this campaign is worth the trouble that it will cause, but its different and brave. Back in the 60´s hippies made a statement saying “Make love not war” just last week students protesting in Bogota where kissing law enforcement officers as part of their protests, but Benetton is digitally manipulating the images and using them for an add campaign. The statement is far from new, the use of photography is far from conventional and very risky.

  7. Rolf Goellnitz Says:

    I really have a problem to understand, how somebody can get upset about the idea of seeing two men kissing each other. I would understand it if they were shown killing each other. I rather like to ask the question, would those so called world leaders actually have the guts to kiss each other to demonstrate trust, compassion and a peaceful mind, despite the reactions and then start acting accordingly. An Ad Campaign like this doesn’t do any harm, except you consider starting to make you think as harmful.

  8. Nicole Says:

    I’m with James – any outrage over the content (of which I have very little) is overshadowed by my outrage over the likely disregard for proper photo permissions!

  9. Ian White Says:

    There should be more agencies willing and able to get work like this out there. Congrats to Benetton!

  10. Ian White Says:

    What is the ruling on the permissions?