Benetton Not Feeling the Love for Its 'Unhate' Kissing Campaign

Pope ad is quickly pulled

An image of the Pope smooching an Egyptian Imam—who wouldn't like that? It's just one example of controversial kissin' couples (mainly world leaders in conflict, like Barack Obama and Hu Jintao, and Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel) from Benetton's new pro-peace "Unhate" campaign from 72andsunny in Amsterdam. The Vatican protested and got that particular ad pulled—they'd probably prefer an image of His Holiness necking with Iman. It's difficult to take the whole manufactured "controversy" seriously. This is Benetton, which has a track record of making shocking ads to generate buzz. It's worked before, with previous ads showing a priest and nun kissing and AIDS patients. Judging from the outcry, "Unhate" is working, too. Alessandro Benetton explains that the campaign is designed "to give widespread visibility to an ideal notion of tolerance and invite the citizens of every country to reflect on how hatred arises particularly from fear of 'the other’ and of what is unfamiliar to us." That's an awfully high-minded sentiment from a man who makes Day-Glo hipster slacks for a living. Still, I suppose the brand deserves some credit for making folks think or feel anything outside their comfort zones. I'd like to believe it would spark serious reflection and debate about life-and-death issues on the world stage. Alas, like the ads themselves, I fear the reactions—pro and con—just blend into the background noise, giving nothing more than lip service to outrage on the one hand, and pleas for tolerance and understanding on the other. More ads after the jump.