Benetton’s Unhate Campaign – leaders of the world, kiss and make-up

Benetton Unhate Campaign China USA

Jintao and Obama

If you cannot love your neighbours then at least unhate them!

It’s been a while but United Colours of Benetton are back with another campaign – should we call it an advertising campaign or are they political campaigns – or is there no distinction? Both as they are being acts of persuasion in the art of selling, whether goods and services or ideas?

Benetton’s campaigns usually make it off the advertising pages and on to the news pages. Their latest the Unhate Campaign is no exception. And as advertising goes 24 hour news coverage is hard to beat – it costing them not a penny in airtime – and in advertising being noticed is everything, better still to be loved as well but if you cannot be adored then better to be hated then ignored.

The campaign came to my attention via this blog post on the My Modern Net site and the posted manipulated images of various world leaders in intimate kissing.

Benetton Unhate Campaign Pope and Imam

The Pope and the Imam

However as noted this Benetton campaign has quickly migrated to the news pages. I had first heard about it just hours earlier on the radio in respect of the withdrawal of the image of the current Pope Benedict XVI kissing a senior Egyptian Iman Ahmed el Tayyeb.

The only question for me on hearing this was which of them would be the first to express outrage. On this occasion it was the Vatican unhappy it seems with the commercial intentions of the image as whether it was blasphemous or not.

An ironic outcome for Benetton bringing Catholics and Muslims together in mutual antipathy!

Benetton say their Unhate Campaign was established to ‘invite the leaders and the citizens of the world to combat the ‘culture of hatred’.

I wonder why the word Unhate was chosen rather than the word Love? Perhaps they are suggesting that the hate-filled parties must first learn not to hate before they can love?

Executive Deputy Chairman Alessandro Benetton goes on to say “At this moment in history, so full of major upheavals and equally large hopes, 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,”.

Benetton Unhate Campaign Obama and Chavez

Obama and Chavez

Perhaps unsurprisingly Barack Obama as leader of the world’s most powerful country is featured twice, the first kiss with Chinese Premier Hu Jintao and the second kiss with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. These are kisses then not so much of love but ‘of kiss and make up’?

The one image I find the most puzzling though is the one between French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel – I had thought from my British perspective their diplomatic relationship already quite friendly, even cosy – indeed in the press their names are often unflatteringly conflated together as ‘Merkozy’ suggesting that they are of one mind, one heart – or something like that!

I would have thought a more appropriate kissing partner for the German Chancellor would have been our very own British Prime Minister, David Cameron, seeing as their current political friendship seems far more frosty.

Likewise for Sarkozy the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might have been a better world leader to exchange spittle with after his recent off-mic remark to Obama that ‘he cannot stand him. He’s a Liar’ (!) – though likely that remark occurred after Benetton had made their leader selections.

Benetton Unhate Campaign Merkel & Sarkozy

Merkel and Sarkozy

Netanyahu in any case is pictured kissing Mahmoud Abbas President of Palestine.

The final image is of Kim Jong-il the Supreme Leader of North Korea  bridging the divide as it were with a peck on the lips with Lee Myung-Bak the President of South Korea.

And indeed why should such images be controversial? World leaders should make more of an effort to get along – to engage each other diplomatically rather than militarily. And perhaps UNHATE is a better term than love which itself is not necessarily a desirable thing in world politics. It is like the so called implied Love In of Governments of National Unity. Sounds nice and reasonable but it lacks plurality – as a democrat I want the market-place of ideas not a cosy cartel of them where all the political parties have merged into one effectively leaving us the electorate disenfranchised.

In the UK we already have a coalition government of Conservative and Liberal Democrat, and the leaders of each, Cameron and Nick Clegg, already holding hands with each other, I don’t want to see the leader of the opposition Labour party Ed Miliband with his tongue in either of their mouths as part of a Unhate Triangle!

Benetton Unhate Campaign North & South Korea

Jong-Il & Myung-Bak

Is this campaign displaying a confusion between Love and Unhate? Is it being implied as the same thing if we see world leaders represented kissing each other? Not hating someone and wanting to kiss them on their lips is quite an emotional jump?

The Unhate campaign is challenging world leaders to put aside their ideological differences of politics and religion but in picturing leaders of the same gender kissing they are challenging yet another emotive issue?

The campaign has homophobia in its sights too?

There is only one image of a female world leader kissing a male world leader but then that is as much due to yet another issue of gender discrimination and the dominance of men in politics and the global power-play.

Though the campaign included just six images – and now five! – with a world in which alas there are so many global, regional and local conflicts clearly there are many more images of leaders kissing their ostensible enemies that could yet be mocked up.

I am expecting a fair share of spoofs on this campaign too. And as is well-established all publicity is good publicity, then well done Benetton for that.

I am still left wondering if this campaign is a cynical commercially self-interested one though. By withdrawing one image so soon there is already a question about the strength of their convictions as surely they must have anticipated the nature of some of the responses they would get. And the fact that there is an outcry about it and I am blogging about it…job well done. I’ve been played?!

I do hope there is more to the Unhate campaign than that.

Benetton Unhate Campaign Palestine Israel

Abbas & Netanyahu