Driving change and encouraging tolerance by taking a moral stand against social inequality, ethical high street clothing label United Colors of Benetton have taken to international billboards with a single, poignant and controversial message: Unhate.
Making its voice heard without uttering a single sentence, Benetton’s latest advertising campaign caused quite the stir, hitting headlines on Wednesday this week. Featuring an array of the world’s most powerful leaders in passionate clinches, the Benetton Group launched their most controversial strategy to date in a bid to to shake up the world’s conscience and stir people towards greater individual and collective commitment. Hoping to encourage a shift in balance, breaking down the social barriers which segregate individuals though prejudice and political ignorance, Benetton have labelled the initiative, the ‘Unhate campaign’. Launched online with an accompanying viral, shot by French director Laurent Chanez, a short ‘Unhate’ film tells of the precarious balance and complex interweaving between the drive to hate and the reasons to love. Seeking attention through positive reinforcement, Benetton has created a ‘kiss wall’ and an ‘unhate list’, located on their official website, which encourages subscribers from all over the world to interact and spread the love.
i-D online caught up with the creative minds behind the media storm to find out more about the forthcoming Unhate Foundation and their plans for spreading world peace.
What appealed to you specifically about the message of the Unhate campaign? We are living in complex times: widespread economic crisis and inequality are heightening distrust and social conflict. But these are also times of new hope and zeal, as we have seen from the unrest and protest movements, starting with the Arab spring in Tunisia, spreading through Egypt and Spain, to the Occupy Wall Street initiatives in New York. This is the scenario within which Benetton wants to be a part of the drive for change and participation. It wants to make its voice heard, taking an approach of dialogue and respect for diversity, with a clear, simple message.
How did you go about collating the images for the campaign? The campaign was created by Fabrica, Benetton Group’s communication research centre.
What areas of the world is the campaign focused upon at the moment? We had live actions in New York, Paris, Milan, Tel Aviv and Rome. It is anyway an international campaign.
How do you hope to go about spreading the message of Unhate more? Through the UNHate foundation which is an extension of the campaign. The objective of the foundation is to oppose and undermine the culture of hate, with campaigns meant to exorcise “fear of the other” and to promote closeness between cultures, races and religion. The Foundation will organise initiatives involving different stakeholders, from the new generations to the institutions, international organisations and NGOs, right through to civil society. We hope the foundation will have a real impact on the international community, especially through the vehicle of communication, which can reach social players in different areas.
How do you hope to bring the signature political Benetton attitude back onto peoples’ radars and keep the messages feeling current for today’s consumers? Through the use of both traditional media and the digital world. This is an interesting aspect of the campaign, this interweaving of different languages to reach the broadest audience possible. But also, with an outlook of open democracy, to invite people to take an active role, to have their say. To be protagonists. Via the “Kiss Wall” and the “Unhate List”.
Who is your target audience? All races, cultures, religions and ages.
Tell me more about the Lana Sutra installations the Fabrica Group worked on for yesterday’s launch? Celebrating the Benetton key elements of Wool, Colour and the idea of Uniting people “Lana Sutra” is a collection of 15 art installations (created by Erik Ravelo from Fabrica – Benetton’s communication centre) that express the idea of love cancelling differences and binding humanity. Each installation is made of plaster sculptures of a man and a woman covered in coloured woollen threads. The contact between their bodies, where the colours mingle and the threads merge, symbolises the natural love that cancels differences and binds humanity as one. It is also symbolic of the values of United Colors of Benetton, an all-encompassing brand whose fashions, composed primarily of knitwear and colour, bring together persons, points of view, passions, peoples and trends.
How will you deal with any negative feedback the campaign receives? We will reiterate and explain the concept behind the idea. The campaign was conceived this way because we truly believe in its message. We certainly did not intend to be offensive and we continue to believe that scandal is often in the eye of the beholder. We have been touched and saddened by some reactions but we are increasingly convinced that we must continue our battle against hatred. We maintain our belief, but the last thing we wanted was to further hatred or misunderstanding, particularly when the spirit of the campaign is to “unhate.”
If you could deliver one, United Colors of Benetton message to the entire world right now and everyone was listening, what would you say? UNHATE.
Text: Milly McMahon