The image is courtesy of the UnHate Foundation, established by the United Colors of Benetton. With its mandate to “contribute to the creation of a new culture of tolerance” the ad campaign sees the likes of world leaders including the Pope, Sheikh al-Tayeb, and Pres. Hu Jintao in simple, yet provocative kisses. The only thing that crossed my mind was “WOW! Benetton has got guts!”
As many companies these days, Benetton launched the campaign over social media, and there was an immediate flurry of activity. Mostly, people were shocked by the images, but the “Unhate” message seemed to resonate. Of course, some religious rights groups immediately called for the image of the Pope be removed, and as the weeks go on, I’m sure other groups will be outraged and call for the campaign to end.
As public relations practitioners, we know the number one obligation in our industry is to be authentic. While the underlying sentiments of the Unhate campaign—tolerance and love through the universal sign for love, the kiss—are authentic, showing world leaders in these provocative, entirely out-of-context positions is not. A campaign depicting “real” people of different races, colors, and religions in a lip-locked embrace may lack the shock value of the current campaign, but it would have gotten closer to the authenticity of those ideas the campaign is intended to communicate.
Hate it or love it, this bold campaign has definitely sparked conversations all over the world.
Heena Chavda grew up in the northern city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She is a student, an explorer, a cook, a wannabe photographer, and an avid hockey fan (GO Oilers!).