Benetton’s Pope Ads Pulled; Lawsuit to Follow

Rather than make its clothing more interesting, Italian fashion house United Colors of Benetton has garnered attention once again by creating controversy with its advertising.

Instead of death row inmates or abortion tools as in previous shock-stunts, the UNHate campaign released this week showcases images of world leaders kissing on the mouth – President Barack Obama and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, for one.

The most shocking of the images, a photo of the Pope kissing an imam, was pulled in response to outrage. It was nowhere to be found on the Benetton website by Thursday evening, but the company had not released a statement about its removal.

The Vatican is expected to sue.

Reaction to the photo campaign was mainly disgust, with Fox News taking the ads out of context, saying “In Benetton world, gay sex solves everything.”

For its part, the White House objects on the grounds that the president’s image is not supposed to be hijacked and used in advertising, regardless of the connotation or product.

Alessandro Benetton, executive deputy chairman of Benetton Group, said the campaign is about peace.

“We have decided, through this campaign, 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,” he said through the company’s site.

Sigh. Here we have another Benetton publicity stunt. Much more interesting are its sweet iPad covers. Cozy!