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The brand “United Colors of Benetton” is not exactly known for its safe and subtle advertisements. The new campaign for the Untouchables UNHATE foundation is no exception. I came upon this ad while skimming through some magazines at a local bookstore. Lürzer’s Archive, popular design periodical that features some of the best advertising design and photography in the world, featured one of the brand campaign’s images on the cover. Lürzer’s Archive, like Benetton, is not shy when it comes to their imagery and cover stories. The cover image featured the juxtaposition of a young boy crucified on the back of a faceless priest. A shocking visual that immediately grabbed my attention. Upon looking further into the magazine and doing some Googling I found out that the campaign was for Benetton’s latest Untouchables UNHATE foundation.

The UNHATE Foundation supports the aim of the Untouchables campaign to raise awareness on the right to childhood and the factors that threaten it. Seven photographs depict the main issues threatening the basic dignity of children around the world:

  • pedophilia inside religious walls,
  • sexual tourism,
  • the civil war in Syria,
  • liberal circulation of firearms,
  • human organ trafficking,
  • obesity, and
  • nuclear pollution.

Like any good PSA, the powerful photographs and messaging are not easily forgotten. Rather, they were actually meant to outrage audiences and incite reactions. As with a lot of Benetton’s advertisements, the public wasn’t going easy on the brand for this one…

In fact, when creative director Erik Ravelo posted the campaign on Facebook, the social media giant pulled the ads, declaring them “offensive.” This didn’t stop Benetton; rather, the brand featured the campaign images displayed on store video walls in major cities around the world. Benetton insisted there be “no brand” reference so that the focus would be exclusively on the imagery and the messaging, not the brand promoting the campaign. The UNHATE Foundation campaign eventually went viral, generating significant shares and raising awareness to children’s rights around the world. Secondarily, the campaign has also been winning design awards for creative direction and photography.

Whether or not you like the Benetton brand or approve of their campaign, there’s no denying the impact of the messaging.

~ Michael Kolatac, ACD, The S3 Agency


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