Alex Blaze

Benetton Pretends to Care about Diversity, Fails Again

Filed By Alex Blaze | November 18, 2011 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Benedict XVI, Benetton, France, Marine Le Pen, pope

I don't know if it's just an Indiana thing, but I'd never heard of Benetton before I read Patricia Williams' Alchemy of Race and Rights, benetton.jpgwhere she uses an instance of being refused entrance to a Benetton store for being black to illustrate pretty much every point in the book. The irony of Benetton refusing entrance to a black woman while running ads that glamorized the diverse, neoliberal world order wasn't lost on her readers.

Now Benetton has a new ad campaign that shows world leaders kissing. The one ad that shows the Pope kissing an Egyptian sheik (Mohammed Ahmed al-Tayeb) caused a stir in the Vatican and now Benetton promised to take it down. Isn't Benetton so edgy?

The video report at The Guardian also quotes a French Muslim who doesn't think that the ad is a very good depiction of Islam. If there were people who others should be told to "unhate," there's plenty of material to work with.

Benetton lives up to its reputation of only supporting diversity when there's no draw-back. The idea for the ad campaign - showing world leaders locking lips - is dumb, but, if the point is to promote tolerance, then taking down an ad because it depicts a same-sex couple is counterproductive.

(It's because of the marketing folks at places that are transparently lying that I'm instinctively skeptical of other branding ventures that seek to place a corporate product next to "diversity," like Target, Lady Gaga, and Glee.)

Anyway, the other Benetton ads in the campaign show Barack Obama and China's president Hu Jintao kissing (as if there's an imminent war between the countries instead of a collaboration to exploit the working class) and France's and Germany's leaders embracing (as if they've been at each other throats instead of joining hands and begging Europe for austerity), which are just dumb.

If you're a charlatan asking people to "unhate," at least choose people who hate each other. It'd show some effort.

Why not show, I dunno, George W. Bush kissing Saddam Hussein? There was hate there. Speaking of hate, what about Barack Obama and one of the "fucking retards" on the left? Or French racist nationalist presidential candidate Marine Le Pen with a Muslim immigrant to France? Or faux-socialist François Hollande with anyone who works for a living? What about Pat Robertson and a prominent gay man?

That would all lead to outcry, and, as we've seen now, Benetton will drop an ad as soon as someone complains. Their current strategy at least saves some paper.

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