The image: For decades, Italian clothing company Benetton was known for its randomly provocative ads, which featured everything from an AIDS-ravaged man on his deathbed to a black horse mounting a white horse. In recent years, the company has largely avoided such controversial campaigns — until now. On Wednesday, the fashion label released "Unhate," a series of six ads in which world leaders appear to kiss their adversaries: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas pucker up, as do President Obama and Chinese leader Hu Jintao (see below). Other snogging "couples" include: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy (see below); North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak; and Pope Benedict XVI and Egyptian Iman Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb. After a Vatican spokesman called the pope image "totally unacceptable," Benetton agreed to yank that ad.
The reaction: "You've certainly gotten our attention, Benetton," says Kevin Farrell at Unicorn Booty. I love both "the message and the medium" of this "brilliant" campaign. It's certainly "hard to tear your eyes away," says Gal Beckerman at The Jewish Daily Forward. Call it a return to the good 'ol days when Benetton was "regularly producing wonderfully subversive ads that demanded a double take." Ugh, says Tim Graham at NewsBusters. Are we really cheering this "decency-shredding advertising"? Rather ironically, "Unhate" actually "seems pretty hateful," at least to the religious and Obama fans. Judge for yourself: