THE Vatican says it is taking legal action to prevent thepublication of a photo montage showing the Pope kissing aleading imam as part of a Benetton advertising campaign.The White House slammed the campaign, which also showed US President Barack Obama kissingChinese President Hu Jintao and Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez in photoshopped pictures.A spokesman for Mr Obama, Eric Schultz, said "the White House has a longstanding policy disapprovingof the use of the presidents name and likeness for commercial purposes".The image is part of a new global advertising campaign called UNHATE that contained a series of photomontages of political and religious leaders kissing.The statement from the Vatican secretary of state came despite an announcement by the Italianclothing company that it was pulling the montage in the wake of severe criticism from the Holy See.The Vatican said its State Secretariat would ask its lawyers "to take action in Italy and abroad to preventthe circulation in the mass-media and elsewhere of the photo montage produced as part of Benettonspublicity campaign".It said Benettons portrayal of Pope Benedict XVI "is wounding not only to the dignity of the Pope butalso to the sensibilities of the faithful".Benettons poster showed Benedict kissing on the lips Egypts Ahmed el Tayyeb, grand imam of the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo and a leading voice in Sunni Islam.Al-Azhar slammed the advert as "irresponsible and absurd" and said it was "still hesitating as to whetherit should issue a response", said Mahmud Azab, adviser to the grand imam.Benettons campaign has touched a nerve in the Vatican at a tense time in relations between the worldstwo biggest religions, with the Catholic church protesting over the growing vulnerability of Christians inthe Middle East.Relations between the Pope and the Al-Azhar imam have been very tense particularly after Benedictexpressed his solidarity with the victims of an attack on a Coptic church in Alexandria.The statement was interpreted by Tayyeb as interference and he did not send a delegation to an inter-religious meeting hosted by Benedict last month.Obama spokesman Eric Schultz said "the White House has a longstanding policy disapproving of the useof the presidents name and likeness for commercial purposes".
The image is part of a new global advertising campaign called UNHATE that contained a series of photomontages of political and religious leaders kissing.Other photo montages show Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu smooching Palestinian leaderMahmoud Abbas and French President Nicolas Sarkozy kissing German Chancellor Angela Merkel.The posters appeared in Benetton clothing stores across the globe as well as in newspapers, magazinesand on websites.The company defended the campaign, saying its purpose "was solely to battle the culture of hate in allits forms".Following threats of legal action from the Catholic Church, Benetton has removed its ad depicting PopeBenedict XVI kissing Egyptian imam Mohammed Ahmed al-Tayeb.The image, which surfaced Wednesday on the Internet, is part of the Italian clothier’s Unhate campaign. TheGuardianreports that within hours, the Vatican had publicly condemned the ad and announced a crackdownon its continued use.Press secretary Father Federico Lombardi said: “We cannot but express a resolute protest at the entirelyunacceptable use of a manipulated image of the Holy Father, used as part of a publicity campaign which hascommercial ends.“It is a serious lack of respect for the pope, an affront to the feelings of the faithful and an evidentdemonstration of how, in the field of advertising, the most elemental rules of respect for others can bebroken in order to attract attention by provocation.”Benetton apologized for causing offense. “We reiterate that the meaning of this campaign is exclusively tocombat the culture of hatred in all its forms. We are therefore sorry that the use of the image of the popeand the imam has so offended the sentiments of the faithful. In corroboration of our intentions, we havedecided, with immediate effect, to withdraw this image from every publication.”According to reports, representative from Cairos al-Azhar mosque labeled the poster “irresponsible andabsurd” although no known comment has been issued from al-Tayeb.A kiss to nowhere: Benetton‟s Unhate campaignThe idea of Unhate as opposed to universal brotherhood and world peace is provocative. It is, inits own way, the end of John Lennon‟s Imagine, sadly dialing down that dream to somethingmuch more prosaic. But the images are no longer provocative. As they flash by on subway wallsand billboards, they are, at best, quaint.They only serve to remind us that the revolution will not be photoshopped. However we can allgo retail shopping instead.
When USSR‟s Leonid Brezhnev kissed East Germany‟s Erich Honecker in 1979 that was a kiss.When Obama kisses Hu Jintao in 2011 that‟s just an ad for Bennetton.It is a comment on history, but without understanding the history.For starters, Brezhnev really kissed Honecker. Communist iron men were prone to thesesmooches unlike their cowboy counterparts on the other side of the Cold War. Thanks to allthose pogroms and tanks rolling into town squares, they were already secure enough in theirmasculinity. But when a graffiti artist recreated that “Fraternal Kiss” on the Berlin Wall, itbecame a symbol of protest, the desperate lip lock of a doomed love affair, a death spiral ofsuffocating love. It was named The Kiss of Death and under it was the slogan “God, help mesurvive this deadly love.”In 1989 Mikhail Gorbachev came to the GDR. He got the kiss as well. Honecker was a serialkisser when he wasn‟t terrorising his own people. If you go to the DDR museum in Berlin whichcurates odd bits of East German life, you can see that kiss splashed over an entire wall. But in1989 it was a protocol kiss. The Cold War was ending, glasnost was on its way and passions hadcooled. As the blog Lite Strabo describes it “This one actually meant „my friend, you are alone.‟Less than one year later, GDR had ceased to exist.”In 2011 in Benetton‟s version of the united colours of Unhate, Obama kisses Hu Jintao. Chavezkisses Obama. The Pope kisses an imam. Only Manmohan Singh doesn‟t get to kiss Asif AliZardari. Benetton apparently considered an Indo-Pak kiss but backed away because of culturalsensitivities and the fear of political backlash. Why Manmohan Singh landing a wet one onZardari would be more controversial than Pope Benedict making out with the Sheikh of the Al-Azzhar mosque is anyone‟s guess. Probably Benetton‟s market surveys indicated not enoughpeople cared. Certainly enough Indians accuse the prime minister of being too soft on thePakistanis. It wouldn‟t have shocked them.
But it doesn‟t matter anyway because it‟s not real. Or remotely based in reality. The image is nolonger so important because countless digitally manipulated images like these ones (and far moreprovocative ones) circulate every day on the internet. The only reason it is “jaw dropping” is thata major clothing company like Benetton is behind it instead of some graphic designer with toomuch time on his hands.The only shock value left in those photoshopped images is the fact that it‟s men kissing men.Ironically a campaign that is about “Unhate” is based on a wellspring of homophobia, relying forits impact on the chhi chhi factor — a viewer‟s gut level revulsion to the idea of men kissingmen.And even there Benetton chickened out. Alessandro Benetton said the images were meant topromote the idea of “unhate” (“which is not as utopian as love”) and should not be seen in aphysical or sexual context. Except the only reason the ads work (if they work at all) is preciselybecause they are seen in a physical or sexual context.In a strange way the only kiss that actually has resonance is the Angela Merkel-Nicolas Sarkozykiss because that‟s the only one rooted in any kind of reality. There have been plenty of imagesof their awkward “shall we hug, shall we kiss” dance. The Benetton kiss is a cheekyconsummation of the unlikely couple‟s odd romance. We can imagine that kiss and it makes ussqueamish.POV: Is Benettons Unhate campaign in good taste?By Shibani Gharat, afaqs!, Mumbai, November 18, 2011Section: News Category: Advertising ShareThe campaign, which features prominent political and religious leaders kissingeach other, is another in the series from controversys child Benetton.Whether it is German Chancellor Angela Merkel kissing French President Nicolas Sarkozy,President Barack Obama pecking his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, or Pope Benedict XVIsmooching Egyptian Imam and a prominent figure in Sunni Islam Ahmed el Tayyeb, Benettonhas clearly created a swirl. afaqs! speaks to industry experts about the Italian apparel brandsrecently launched Unhate campaign, which finds leaders from opposite sides of the political andreligious divide kissing each other, with the underlying message of peace. What we find out ishate it, Unhate it, but you cannot ignore it!
Piyush PandeyExecutive chairperson and national creative director, Ogilvy IndiaI think the entire campaign is sensational and unnecessary. It is certainly edgy, but being edgydoes not mean that you cross limits. A lot of people will say that it is a fantastic way of doingthings, but I feel there are other fantastic ways of doing things.K V SridharNational creative director, Leo BurnettThe participants of Bigg Boss are supposed to behave in a certain way. Similarly, Benetton as abrand is supposed to behave in a particular way, too. If it does not behave in that manner, then itwould be unique.One other campaign of the brand showed a blood-smeared baby still attached to its umbilicalcord. As a brand, it has done several such campaigns in the past. But, this time, I feel that it hasdone it intelligently. The message that nations/religions should not hate each other has beenconveyed effectively through the best form of expression of adore - a kiss. Leaders arerepresentatives of the masses. If they would have shown Barrack Obama hugging Hu Jintao, thenit would not have been as interesting. But, this one works and is brilliantly executed.Ashish KhazanchiVice-chairperson and national creative director, Publicis Ambience
In good taste or in bad taste is a matter of perspective and from whose eyes you are viewing it. Ifit is from the perspective of a 20-year-old, then they will love it. But, something like this cannotbe done in India, where our political leaders, freedom fighters, and religious leaders are demi-gods. Provocation in the mildest of forms has the potential to form a big controversy.But, overall, I like the campaign. How many brand campaigns have this kind of tonality and thekind of media coverage? It has done several such campaigns in the past, some of which includethe Blood Kid, and All the Colors of the World campaign that spotlights groups of children ofdifferent colours and races. I feel, with this campaign, it is getting back to the roots and thecontroversies that it had created in the 1990s.I really do not think it wants to promote world peace. All it wishes to promote is a controversythat grabs eyeballs.Santosh PadhiChief creative officer and co-founder, Taproot IndiaBenetton has always done edgy work. It strongly believes in this. It is a youth brand, and theyouth really like all this. If it tries to attempt something like this in India, then it will be a totallydifferent story. Our country is far more sensitive. Hence, its ads here are milder than thoseabroad. For example, the ad with the blood-smeared baby still attached to its umbilical cord willnot be appreciated in India.But, I feel the recent communication speaks the language of 18-24-year-olds, which is its coretarget group. It is back with edgy stuff and grabbing headlines.Arun IyerNational creative director, Lowe LintasIt is a controversial ad. But, that is what it is supposed to do -- create controversy. Fifty per centof the people will feel that it is in bad taste, while the other 50 per cent will find it interesting.However, despite the like or dislike, it will induce talk-ability. I think visually, it is supposed tobe debatable, but at a thought level, it is not at all a debate.The fact that this campaign has been successful in creating a debate is by itself a success of thebrand and its objective. However, it is also trying to push too far. o The Foundation o Campaign o Film
o Paris Event o Actions o Unhate List o Kiss Wall o Gadgets o PressSupports the Unhate Foundation
FilmThe film UNHATE by French director Laurent Chanez, tells of the precarious balance and complex interweaving betweenthe drive to hate and the reasons to love.Unhate Film Benetton Group Press Area
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