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These ads have since been pulled. What do you think?
Benetton's controversial 'Unhate' ad campaign features world leaders kissing
A new ad campaign from Benetton features U.S. President Barack Obama kissing his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas kissing Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German chancellor Angela Merkel kissing Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic. The ads were released earlier today by Benetton along with a press release that explained that the brand is attempting to promote "a culture of tolerance and combat hatred around the world".
In the late '80s and early '90s Benetton rode it's controversial "United Colors of Benetton" ad campaigns to global fame. By 2000, the Italian fashion label was facing a worldwide backlash for the "We, On Death Row" project that included photographs of 26 real death-row inmates. The company has been relatively quiet since the PR disaster... until now.
The photoshopped "Unhate" campaign launched today in Paris and it has already stirred serious controversy. One of the images in the ad campaign features Pope Benedict XVI kissing Egypt's Ahmed el Tayyeb -- the image has been pulled from the ad campaign after the Vatican issued a stern condemnation. In just a few short hours the images have sparked protests and the ads have been publicly rejected, unsurprisingly, by a number of magazines. However, just as many titles have agreed to run the controversial ads.
"It fits perfectly with the values and history of Benetton, which chooses social issues and actively promotes humanitarian causes that could not otherwise have been communicated on a global scale, and in doing so has given a sense and a value to its brand, building a lasting dialogue with the people of the world." - Alessandro Benetton, VP of Benetton