The Benetton Advertising Campaigns

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The Benetton Advertising Campaigns

In the early 90's Benetton were at the heart of a groundbreaking
advertising campaign, daring to challenge the average Joe's views on
various matters that are normally seen as taboo.

The advertisements in question could be seen in various situations,
billboards, magazines etc. They used Binary oppositions to highlight
social issues. Many have found the various images offensive,
disturbing and blasphemous. Some are even believed to only 'fuel'
disputes. But in this modern day we are constantly bombarded with
information on the way we should live our lives, and therefore taught
to ignore these social issues. Issues such as racism, conflict in LEDC
countries and homosexuality are being highlighted by Toscani and
Benetton. These would normally be spoken about behind closed doors,
where they would not offend and not cause complication. But when
Benetton decided to highlight these factors to the public some would
say it was a good idea to make people think about their views on
Racism, or violence etc. The connotations of some of the adverts,
mainly the ones about racial equality, show the public that we are all
human, and other than aesthetically we are all the same. Therefore if
the audience understand the advert and agrees with the message then
the campaign must be a positive thing for society.

The reality campaigns were made to highlight the real problems, rather
than the fictitious world portrayed by the media.

But although the adverts could be seen as positive for society,
opening up the publics' eyes to the fact, many did find the various
posters offensive.

[IMAGE]

This advert of the newborn child raised over 800 complaints resulting
in it being withdrawn by Benetton. But this very same advert won
awards in Switzerland for its originality and strong statement. This
shows the varying views of the public in different countries. Another
advert featuring a model pinned to a cross was also highly complained
about. It was seen to be mocking the Christian religion, connoting
Jesus was a woman and was therefore highly blasphemous.

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An ad showing
David Kirby, an IDS patient, surrounded by his family on his deathbed,
stirred particularly extreme emotions. In Britain, the Advertising
Standards Authority described the ad as 'obscene' and ' a despicable
exploitation of a tragic situation'. Maggie Alderson, the editor of
the UK edition of Elle, which ran a statement on two black pages
instead of the ad commented:

"It is an incredibility moving image in the right context, but use it
as an advertisement for a fashion store selling jumpers is incredibly
insulting. They have stepped out of the bounds of what is acceptable
and what makes this so sickening is that they have touched up the
photograph to make it look biblical because the AIDS victim resembles
Jesus Christ." (The Guardian, 24/1/92)

This was believed to be a disturbing image, although a common
occurrence and was also blasphemous, it was deemed not to be
highlighting the reality of AIDS but to be an unacceptable advert
attempting to arouse sympathy to gain brand recognition at the expense
of a man dieing from AIDS. It was felt that Benetton should not be
gaining brand recognition or making a profit from raising such
important issues to the attention of the public.

As a Benetton press release says:

"Bitterly attacked by some and internationally acclaimed by others,
Benetton's campaigns have managed to tear down the wall of
indifference contributing at raising the awareness of universal
problems among world's citizens. At the same time, they have paved the
way for innovative modes of corporate communication."

As much as it is fair to say Benetton's adverts are strong statements
made to raise awareness of important issues, they are also found to be
offensive by different viewers in various cultures, and they are also
used to simply advertise their brand by shocking the audience into
huge publicity for their clothing range. So I feel that although
Toscani and Benetton may feel strongly about the different matters,
the adverts made are purely meant to maximise sales and profit for the
Benetton brand.


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