United Colours Of Benetton Essay Research Paper

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United Colours Of Benetton Essay, Research Paper UNITED COLOURS OF BENETTON TOSCANI S ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS Over the years, advertising has become the single largest source of visual imagery in our society. No matter where we look, we see advertisements trying to sell us everything from food to cars. We often see images of beautiful people enticing us to spend our money on products we think we need, hoping that by purchasing the product we too will reap the benefits of owning it. Not long ago however, an Italian clothing designer named Luciano Benetton changed the face of advertising forever by employing Oliviero Toscani as chief of advertising at Benetton. Instead of showing Benetton s products in its advertisements, they have chosen to show images related to important world

issues in an apparent attempt to raise awareness. In this essay, I shall discuss the social and cultural implications of Benetton s advertisements to discover why they have become so criticised and whether or not they are beneficial to society today. It was in 1989 that Benetton became the first company to eliminate pictures of its products from its advertisements. In their place, Benetton uses powerful images of AIDS victims, racism, war and now even death row inmates. In the same year, the trademark United Colours of Benetton was officially adopted. The campaign trademark and philosophy is the result of the combined efforts of company president Luciano Benetton and photographer Oliviero Toscani. Benetton and Toscani s personal ideas and perspectives on advertising have since

become very similar with Benetton s corporate image. Toscani is in fact only interested in the world and people. Toscani, who has a long history in dealing with art, was given total control over Benetton s advertisements. His decision to completely remove the product from the advertisements stems directly from his beliefs about the problems of contemporary advertising. He believes that the advertising industry has corrupted society . However, despite claims from both men that profit was never a motive and raising social conscience is their single goal, Benetton advertisements have been widely criticised and banned world-wide. The following reports discuss three of Benetton s main advertisement campaigns: AIDS, race and death row. It may be difficult for us to understand the lack

of understanding of AIDS in the past but our society was not always as informed as today. When the Benetton AIDS campaign began in 1991, this was during the AIDS crisis when people were not as informed about the causes or transmission of the disease. At times in the past, people with AIDS were seen as outcasts. At one point, the government had even considered mass quarantine of AIDS infected patients. When discussing these advertisements, we must first realise what the situation was like when they were presented to the world. One advertisement is a photo of a man named David Kirby who at the time was dying of AIDS. The image first ran as a photo in Life magazine where it received mass praise and critical acclaim. Kirby s family then gave Benetton permission to use the picture in

their advertisements in hopes that it would raise attention of the AIDS epidemic. However, when Benetton published the advertisement, it was criticised as exploitation of the victim as a way to gain brand recognition and sell more clothes. Magazine publishers and Britain s Advertising Standards Authority have even called the advertisement obscene , disgusting and a despicable exploitation of a tragic situation . It would seem as though even when choosing a critically acclaimed photo, Benetton can do no good in the eyes of the media. Another advertisement is a photo of virals of blood like those used in the AIDS testing process. Names of famous world leaders are shown on the virals to show that no one is immune to the AIDS virus. At that time, AIDS was widely thought to be