The Kiss Off

After years of  benign advertising, following years of controversial ads by Oliverio Toscani and Tibor Kalman,  the United Colors of Benetton released its latest shocker, the “Unhate” campaign. Herein are shown unlikely pairs of world leaders locking lips in the spirit of love. However, one of the ads with Pope Benedict XVI kissing Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb was immediately withdrawn. This wasn’t the first time the Church was pissed after being kissed by Benetton (see here).

“The Vatican quickly condemned the use of the Pope’s visage in the ad, calling it ‘a serious lack of respect for the pope, an affront to the feelings of the faithful and an evident demonstration of how, in the field of advertising, the most elemental rules of respect for others can be broken in order to attract attention by provocation,” according to The Guardian. The Holy See announced it would attempt legal action and The Benetton company apologized for offending the faithful and promised to withdraw the image. The ads were conceived as a way to promote “unhate,” making a statement of brotherhood with a kiss.

The campaign is not the first time kissing is in the center of controversy. You may recall Art Spiegelman’s New Yorker cover (above), which offended the Hasidic community. Sometimes a kiss is just a kiss . . .

Unhate United Colors of Benetton PopeUnhate United Colors of Benetton ObamaUnhate United Colors of BenettonUnhate United Colors of BenettonUnhate United Colors of BenettonUnhate United Colors of Benetton

9 thoughts on “The Kiss Off

  1. Pingback: Design Work Life » Monday Quick Links: 11.28.11

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  3. Merrilyn Tarlton

    It is an expression of so many things that are wrong when the head of a global religion is outraged by the idea that he would kiss someone in public. Is a kiss not also an expression of love…….not just sex? Cheers for this campaign. May it make those who are intransigent bend to consider new possibilities and those who won’t. . . . may it make them itch.

  4. chaz desimone

    Talk about powerfully provocative. It’s almost discomforting to see some of these people kissing each other, not from the “friendship viewpoint” but otherwise. However, I applaud the campaign because it has a very important message, and it does provoke, which is what good advertising should accomplish.
    BUT there is one absolute flaw, which I put on the same list as distorting a typestyle to make it fit: Obama’s image is merely flopped from one photo to the next. I never allow an image to show the “wrong side.” Find another image, or go shoot it. And the photos you see where the wristwatch numbers are backwards? That’s just plain sloppy.

  5. nuno jacinto

    When institutions that (supposedly) promot love, show such disgust on this sort of work never taking the time do mention ou understanding the message, all is say and done. Sadly UNHATE is not possible.That said, I find very interesting that almost every time the Catholic Church sneezes, people back down and campaigns are recalled, in this case just an image. But when Islamic authorities (I don’t know the correct term) protest they usually are accused of being intolerant, and then there’s a great debate on “Freedom of speech” and “Freedom of religion”.Well …

  6. Laura Marr

    Editorial cartoonists have been doing this for a hundreds of years. Same idea here, just achieved via cheap Photoshop thrills. I have no problem with poking a little fun at political figures. But I dislike the corresponding video ad message that sex is the opposite of hate.