The United Colours of Benetton chief executive has defended claims that his latest media campaign will fall flat due to its lack of shock tactics.
The Italian clothes giant has launched its latest campaign; the Unemployee Of The Year Competition, designed to inspire the unemployed youth to take back their dignity and show the world they have practical skills to offer.
But the images used in the campaign are less controversial than those used in previous Benetton ads - in its hey-day in the 1990s Benetton was famous for publishing thought-provoking and shocking images, designed to get people to talk about the topic but also the brand.
Previous campaigns have tackled the difficult issues of disability, HIV, AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases and religion.
For its Unemployee campaign, Benetton is calling on adults aged between 18 and 30 years old who are not in full time employment to submit their projects and ideas in need of funding to a community group.
Proposals must have a concrete impact on community welfare and be coherent with the UNHate foundation’s principles, which seeks to create a new culture against hate and stigmas.
This submission group, populated by other 18-30 year olds who have also submitted ideas, will then vote for the top 100. The winners will all receive 5,000 euros as a grant to start up their project, as well as campaign backing from Benetton.
Although the Unemployee project is related to the UNHate project - which saw published photographs of iconic figureheads kissing those considered to be their rivals in a bid to stamp out stigma and hate – the stills from this campaign are far less controversial.
When Huffington Post UK spoke to chief executive Alessandro Benetton, he seemed unconcerned about whether the lack of a shock factor would lead to the campaign failing to resonate.
“In terms of impact, I’m looking forward to seeing how the reaction fares,” he said.
“My first reaction was yes, it’s not as controversial as others but it’s a bit like reading a book; certain pieces of a novel will be more shocking and others will draw your attention a little less.”
“We’re using a different positioning and different people, but the principles are still the same; we’re encouraging debate about a contemporary theme in order to share a point of view with our customers, who are treated as individuals.
Benetton left the Italian stock market earlier this year after taking the decision to become a private company once again.
This decision makes it easier to plan long term philosophies and strategies, Benetton told HuffPostUK.
“Going public in 1986 it was the right thing to do, the discipline that was granted indirectly to the company by the fact it was a listed company was a good contribution to its success and growth,” he said.
“But the environment has now changed and adjustment and repositioning was needed – mostly rethinking of the organisation around what we do, including a reinterpretation from me – that all involved a medium to long term view; and that’s not compatible with being listed.”
Benetton insisted that while the UNHate and Unemployee projects were different to previous advertising campaigns, the thinking behind them was the same; inspiring a generation to look a what’s happening in the world and to talk about it openly.
The findings of Fabrica, Benetton’s research facility, led Benetton on this most recent charge. More than 100 million 15-29 year olds are unemployed globally, with 5.5 million on those in Europe.
The UK has an unemployment rate of 21.5% for 16-24 year olds and 9.2% for 25-29 year olds; both statistics are higher than the overall unemployment rate of 8%.
Benetton said: “The research showed there was a big misconception on how the current adult generation sees this younger generation.
“These 18-30 year olds may not have a job, but they have many other skills, but too often they’re categorised as being lazy.
“What I’m hoping to demonstrate is that these people who discuss what projects they want to do with our 5,000 euros, they are capable and responsible and they want a society where… having a job is not everything.”
Benetton concluded by saying he hoped the campaign would inspire other businesses to offer similar competitions, and that it would show doubters that the young generation should be at the centre of discussions about our future.
The fashion house's new venture received mixed reviews in the industry; Jaana Jatyri, Founder of Trendstop.com, commented: “Benetton’s Unhate campaign comes at a time when university students are struggling to find work, never mind creative funding. The campaign will surely build goodwill with tomorrow’s customers.”
“In a new era where Benetton’s trademark shock tactics may not have the same clout as the past, the Unhate campaign will certainly give it a different edge. The Unhate campaign is beginning to transform the image of Benetton, from one of media provocateur to a brand that truly cares about its consumers."
But Mintel's Richard Perks said he "was not convinced" by the campaign as it didn't refer to the merchandise or clothing.
The competition is accepting entries from across the globe from 18 September to 14 October, and is being promoted globally using social media, videos in cinemas and in the print media.
Further information on the campaign can be found on the UNHate Foundation website.