Between the Lines: Benetton must sharpen up

Taking a brand with a strong advertising history and steering it in a new direction takes some doing. One need only look at recent efforts for Tetley, Kit Kat and Bisto for proof of this.

However, these briefs look like child's play compared with the task awaiting the United Colors of Benetton's new, and first, UK agency (page 1).

Benetton is one of the world's most controversial advertisers. Its infamous poster work, featuring copulating horses and Aids patients, may have pushed the boundaries of good taste, but it established the company as a retailer with a genuine point of difference and helped turn it into a worldwide success.

Recently, Benetton has both softened its approach and lost its way. The company's new agency faces a tough job. Benetton can't go back in time - its rival fcuk has long since replaced it as fashion's best shock tactician.

But a new, more product-led strategy may result in Benetton sacrificing its edge. The company must avoid getting swallowed up by the sea of Gap-, H&M- and Next-style retailers.