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Benetton's kissing Pope, Obama and Merkel ads spark outrage

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Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy

Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy

Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez

Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez

Controversial: Pope Benedict 'kissing' Egyptian cleric Ahmed el Tayeb in the clothing firm's ad

Controversial: Pope Benedict 'kissing' Egyptian cleric Ahmed el Tayeb in the clothing firm's ad

A poster from an anti-smoking campaign by Les Droits des Non-fumeurs which has caused outrage for its implied association that smoking is tantamount to sex slavery.

A poster from an anti-smoking campaign by Les Droits des Non-fumeurs which has caused outrage for its implied association that smoking is tantamount to sex slavery.

This poster of a grotesquely well developed child is part of a campaign by ad agency Serve, commissioned by the Family Violence Partnership in Milwaukee, to raise awareness about statutory rape. The tagline reads 'If you see a child as anything more, it's wrong.'

This poster of a grotesquely well developed child is part of a campaign by ad agency Serve, commissioned by the Family Violence Partnership in Milwaukee, to raise awareness about statutory rape. The tagline reads 'If you see a child as anything more, it's wrong.'

Toyota is probably regretting its ad campaign for the virtuously eco-friendly Prius. The posters portray three immoral scenes - murder (above), prostitution and adultery- bearing the tagline 'Well, at least he drives a Prius'.

Toyota is probably regretting its ad campaign for the virtuously eco-friendly Prius. The posters portray three immoral scenes - murder (above), prostitution and adultery- bearing the tagline 'Well, at least he drives a Prius'.

A South American beauty clinic called Xiomara Coronado Beauty Center launched this campaign featuring digitally enhanced images of Angelina Jolie and Paris Hilton, alleging that they'd look that wrinkly in years to come if they neglected their skincare routine.

A South American beauty clinic called Xiomara Coronado Beauty Center launched this campaign featuring digitally enhanced images of Angelina Jolie and Paris Hilton, alleging that they'd look that wrinkly in years to come if they neglected their skincare routine.

M&C Saatchi is responsible for this campaign for the Australian Red Cross aimed at promoting blood donation. The gruesome image of a blood filled donation pot certainly provokes a reaction.

M&C Saatchi is responsible for this campaign for the Australian Red Cross aimed at promoting blood donation. The gruesome image of a blood filled donation pot certainly provokes a reaction.

This Benetton advert features a photo of Aids sufferer and activist David Kirby and his family by Therese Frare (1990). The original picture, which won the World Press Photo Award, was published in black and white, but Benetton's advertisers decided they wanted to use a colour version to make it seem more shockingly like a real ad. The ad was designed to raise awareness of Aids and Kirby's family and Frare approved of the photos use. But it provoked a storm of criticism from other Aids activists who claimed the campaign was in some way a vindication of homosexuality.

This Benetton advert features a photo of Aids sufferer and activist David Kirby and his family by Therese Frare (1990). The original picture, which won the World Press Photo Award, was published in black and white, but Benetton's advertisers decided they wanted to use a colour version to make it seem more shockingly like a real ad. The ad was designed to raise awareness of Aids and Kirby's family and Frare approved of the photos use. But it provoked a storm of criticism from other Aids activists who claimed the campaign was in some way a vindication of homosexuality.

Bearing the slogan 'Fair trial, my arse,' this Agent Provocateur advert bears a cheeky message. Having teamed up with human rights campaigners Reprieve, the sheer orange undies were part of a wider campaign against the illegal detention of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

Bearing the slogan 'Fair trial, my arse,' this Agent Provocateur advert bears a cheeky message. Having teamed up with human rights campaigners Reprieve, the sheer orange undies were part of a wider campaign against the illegal detention of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy

Benetton's latest ad campaign, showing world leaders kissing each other – the Pope and the Sheikh of the al-Azhar mosque, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, and Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez - has sparked a wave condemnation.

The images have already been banned by The Sunday Times, International Herald Tribune and The Guardian. Last night, Benetton withdrew the ad depicting the Pope.



The head of the company and son of the founder, Alessandro Benetton, told The Independent: "We want to reaffirm the value of the brand. We are going back to the tradition of [Benetton] and will make the most of this. But we are reconciling the past with the future. At this time, when something bad is happening in the world, we want to focus people's eyes on the positives. This campaign is about reconciliation and acceptance."



With a nod to the importance of social media to the success of a campaign, 50 per cent of Unhate will be digital and Benetton has set up a "kiss wall" on Facebook; the total spend on the campaign is €10m.



A charitable offshoot, the Unhate Foundation, has been launched to help countries in need from Africa to South America.



Benetton has seen its share price slide in recent years – its most recent annual results revealed profits had fallen 16.4 per cent on the previous year to €102m (£87m). But Alessandro Benetton has recently invested more than €1bn in the company and plans to revamp flagship stores across the 120 countries it is in.



The current trend for bright colours and knitwear – Benetton's core looks – could stimulate interest in the brand again, if only in the short term. But Alessandro is hopeful for longer-term growth. "We have deliberately made long-term decisions. The choices that a father of a family would make."



Alessandro, a former investment banker at Goldman Sachs, took the helm from his father Luciano, four years ago. Luciano founded the firm in Italy and the family still owns a 67 per cent stake in the company, which is listed in Italy.



It remains to be seen whether Benetton can recapture the interest of consumers with its new advertising campaign, or whether the Unhate images will come to represent the midlife crisis of a once-mighty brand.



Belfast Telegraph