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Carla Buzasi

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The Week That Was

Posted: 19/11/11 23:00

The last time a Benetton advert was shocking, I was still at school and the height of sophistication was having one of the brand's brightly coloured T-shirts, emblazoned with the company logo, for non-uniform days.

The equivalent, I'd imagine, of having a top today with Jack Wills or Hollister on the front - although I definitely don't remember scantily-clad, muscle-bound One Direction look-alikes manning the tills at Benetton when I was growing up.

Back then it was naked, screaming newborns making headlines. This week, kissing world leaders thrust the fashion brand back into the limelight and reminded us that, in some areas at least, we are still capable of being taken aback by pictures alone, albeit in this case ones that have been manipulated and photo-shopped to within an inch of their lives.

It remains to be seen if this week's new campaign, branded 'Unhate', can help shift Benetton's clothes (56% of HuffPost UK readers didn't think it would), although it certainly made the company appear relevant and capable of pushing our buttons again.

Talking about the ideas behind the campaign, and managing not to mention selling clothes even once, Benetton said: "These are symbolic images - with an ironic touch of hope and constructive provocation - to promote some thought about the way policies, faith and ideas, even if they are completely opposite and diverse, can lead to dialogue and mediation."

The White House certainly didn't like the photos (spokesman Eric Schultz said they had "a longstanding policy disapproving of the use of the president's name and likeness for commercial purposes.")

Vatican City really didn't like them either, with Benetton in the end agreeing to pull those that showed the Pope kissing Ahmed el Tayyeb, imam of the al-Azhar mosque in Cairo - although you'd imagine the Catholic church had more pressing concerns with its public image than how photos of its leader were manipulated.

And while all those who were included in the campaign were outwardly indignant, surely there were as many ruffled feathers behind closed doors for those who didn't make the cut. Certainly, if I were working in Number 10, I'd be concerned about the fact Cameron wasn't seen as iconic enough to warrant a little digital mastery opposite one of his international sparring partners.

Resisting calls to pull the campaign altogether - the storm in the teacup being the entire point, one would imagine - the first images appeared Saturday across the Italian press, and will be followed by posters in all Benetton's stores.

Did they shock you? Do they make the brand seem relevant again? And, ultimately, can you see them persuading you to part with your cash to add Benetton back into your wardrobe? Let us know in the comments box below...

 

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