Regular readers of Campaign will know that this magazine is not a
fan of Benetton’s advertising - if, indeed, you can call it
Mind you, I’m not even sure that Benetton itself would call it that.
My guess is that the best term to describe what Benetton does is ’social
art’. Certainly, it has long maintained that these campaigns have
nothing to do with selling jumpers, but are all about forcing the public
to confront the great issues of our time - racism, civil war, Aids and
so on. The fact that Benetton just happens to use the world’s oldest
advertising medium for its ’social art’, which appears when new ranges
hit the shops, must be a coincidence.
What then are we to make of the latest Benetton ads which feature Down’s
syndrome children? For those of us who have become inured to Benetton
over the years, there’s nothing particularly different about these ads:
the same shock tactics, and the same self-justifying moral
high-mindedness (’challenging assumptions of beauty’), although, this
time, for a first, the ’models’ are actually wearing clothes.
By and large, however, I’ve always tolerated the Benetton campaigns.
In my heart, I never believed that they weren’t about selling more
product, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt. This time, it’s
different and for one reason - the four little words ’in association
with Lenor’ and the tiny teardrop-shaped Lenor logo.
Yes, readers, you’ve got it. The mighty Procter & Gamble has jumped into
bed with Benetton or, as the mealy-mouthed P&G press release puts it,
’Lenor Care has been endorsed by Benetton.’ Money has changed hands
although, as Benetton says, it’s a question of extra money from P&G for
extra poster sites.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, I find myself utterly repelled by
this association. But why this particular Benetton ad? Well, that’s the
difficult bit. On one level, it’s the total inappropriateness of the
juxtaposition of the clothes with Lenor. A serious issue is treated with
all the depth of a fashion item. It’s as if Benetton is saying, ’Dress
your Down’s syndrome child in our clothes and you can pretend everything
is normal’ and then, to make matters worse, P&G chips in by saying, ’And
they appreciate it even more if you use Lenor.’ Could anything be more
tacky? Only, say, if Benetton had let Durex or Mates endorse its Aids
But, ultimately, the thing that really disgusts me is the way the ads
represent a corruption of Benetton’s so-called morality. After all, if
this Benetton campaign is about raising the issue of disabled children,
why disfigure it with a nakedly commercial purpose?
The ad is adorned with Benetton’s usual catchphrase, ’United Colours of
Benetton’. In this case, the phrase, ’True Colours of Benetton’ might
have been more appropriate.