afaqs!

POV: Is Benetton's 'Unhate' campaign in good taste?

By Shibani Gharat , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | November 18, 2011
The campaign, which features prominent political and religious leaders kissing each other, is another in the series from controversy's child Benetton.

Whether it is German Chancellor Angela Merkel kissing French President Nicolas Sarkozy, President Barack Obama pecking his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, or Pope Benedict XVI smooching Egyptian Imam and a prominent figure in Sunni Islam Ahmed el Tayyeb, Benetton has clearly created a swirl. afaqs! speaks to industry experts about the Italian apparel brand's recently launched 'Unhate' campaign, which finds leaders from opposite sides of the political and religious divide kissing each other, with the underlying message of peace. What we find out is hate it, 'Unhate it', but you cannot ignore it!

Piyush Pandey
Executive chairperson and national creative director, Ogilvy India

I think the entire campaign is sensational and unnecessary. It is certainly edgy, but being edgy does not mean that you cross limits. A lot of people will say that it is a fantastic way of doing things, but I feel there are other fantastic ways of doing things.

K V Sridhar
National creative director, Leo Burnett

The participants of Bigg Boss are supposed to behave in a certain way. Similarly, Benetton as a brand is supposed to behave in a particular way, too. If it does not behave in that manner, then it would be unique.

One other campaign of the brand showed a blood-smeared baby still attached to its umbilical cord. As a brand, it has done several such campaigns in the past. But, this time, I feel that it has done it intelligently. The message that nations/religions should not hate each other has been conveyed effectively through the best form of expression of adore - a kiss. Leaders are representatives of the masses. If they would have shown Barrack Obama hugging Hu Jintao, then it would not have been as interesting. But, this one works and is brilliantly executed.

Ashish Khazanchi
Vice-chairperson and national creative director, Publicis Ambience

In good taste or in bad taste is a matter of perspective and from whose eyes you are viewing it. If it is from the perspective of a 20-year-old, then they will love it. But, something like this cannot be done in India, where our political leaders, freedom fighters, and religious leaders are demi-gods. Provocation in the mildest of forms has the potential to form a big controversy.

But, overall, I like the campaign. How many brand campaigns have this kind of tonality and the kind of media coverage? It has done several such campaigns in the past, some of which include the 'Blood Kid', and 'All the Colors of the World' campaign that spotlights groups of children of different colours and races. I feel, with this campaign, it is getting back to the roots and the controversies that it had created in the 1990s.

I really do not think it wants to promote world peace. All it wishes to promote is a controversy that grabs eyeballs.

Santosh Padhi
Chief creative officer and co-founder, Taproot India

Benetton has always done edgy work. It strongly believes in this. It is a youth brand, and the youth really like all this. If it tries to attempt something like this in India, then it will be a totally different story. Our country is far more sensitive. Hence, its ads here are milder than those abroad. For example, the ad with the blood-smeared baby still attached to its umbilical cord will not be appreciated in India.

But, I feel the recent communication speaks the language of 18-24-year-olds, which is its core target group. It is back with edgy stuff and grabbing headlines.

Arun Iyer
National creative director, Lowe Lintas

It is a controversial ad. But, that is what it is supposed to do -- create controversy. Fifty per cent of the people will feel that it is in bad taste, while the other 50 per cent will find it interesting. However, despite the like or dislike, it will induce talk-ability. I think visually, it is supposed to be debatable, but at a thought level, it is not at all a debate.

The fact that this campaign has been successful in creating a debate is by itself a success of the brand and its objective. However, it is also trying to push too far.

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