Advertisements became a part of our life. They are everywhere and we are so used to them that often we don’t even notice them anymore. However, some of the advertisement images capture our attention and stay in minds for a very long time. Advertisements can evoke the wide variety of emotions in people. Every advertisement is different from one another. In this article I will concentrate on the advertisement idea of one of the leading clothing companies- “United Colors of Benetton”
United Colors of Benetton have produced some extraordinary and unique advertisements. Benetton's originality in their advertisements is unlike any other clothing company. Instead of advertising their clothes on beautiful female and male models, Benetton uses real people, and situations and dilemmas in the real world to get their name across. Their controversial ads are notorious for the shock value they exhibit. People sometimes cannot believe that a certain advertisement is actually aimed at selling clothes. This “shock value" technique has recently been the new trend in 20th century advertising culture. It is a clever tactic that has recently been employed by various companies, agencies, and institutions throughout the world.
Benetton's aim is for the public to see their distinct ads and remember them. They want people to see an advertisement and think about it, discuss it, love it, and even hate it. In their minds, any publicity is good publicity. They believe that their unique ads will drive you to their stores, and it does just that. Benetton's profits almost doubled to nearly two-hundred-forty-five million Euros (392 million Canadian dollars) in four years (1996-2000). The question that lingers on everyone's mind is how do you make someone remember an ad when they are bombarded by hundreds of advertisements daily? The answer; Shock them. Unlike normal clothing companies whose aim is to only sell their clothes, “[Benetton] believes [that they] can do more than sell products. [They] can broaden minds". Benetton uses advertisements featuring people dying of AIDS, dead soldiers, cemeteries, poverty stricken children, etc. Their hope lies within the public. They want people to see their advertisements and take it to heart. Just as the Du Maurier cigarette company uses pictures of diseased organs on their cigarette packs in hopes of getting people to take action and quit smoking, Benetton uses real life images in their ads to instil their humanitarian cause in the rest of the world. These graphic images are not sugar coated and fancy like advertisements that other large clothing companies use. Instead they are meant to startle or shock the public and create an image in people's minds that may create concern for the well being of people, animals, and the planet, and at the same time, create a curiosity that would impel someone to visit their clothing stores and learn more about them.
Benetton has a hard time understanding why their advertisements spark so much controversy. All of their ads feature real life situations. Nothing is made up or fake about their ads. They are not purposely out there to exploit human suffering. Instead they are trying to demonstrate the extent of the problem. Many of their ads feature issues of multiculturalism, peace, the tragic effects of war, and disease. Many people are aware of these problems but choose to turn their heads or forget about them, instead of doing something to help the cause. Two specific advertisements that I found to be very clever and interesting are those that promote the breaking down of race discrimination. The two ads remind the public that no matter how we look on the outside, everyone looks the same on the inside; literally. One of these advertisements has a picture of three real hearts. They are obviously not human hearts, but the viewer of the ad gets the idea. On each of the three hearts it says one word; Black, White, and Yellow. As mentioned before, the advertisement hopes to remind and convince the public that although we might look different on the outside, that on the inside we are the exact same. Benetton tries to promote equality regardless of colour, race, or religion. The second such advertisement that hopes to communicate and promote the need for compassion with all other human beings is that of three girls. The picture shows the three girls, one of African descent, one of Caucasian descent, and the third girl of Oriental descent, with their heads side by side, sticking out their tongues. Once again, Benetton shows that regardless of the way we look on the outside, that on the inside we are all the same. All our tongues are the same colour, and look the same. The same goes with our hearts. It is these types of advertisements that define Benetton and their cause. They are campaigning for equality. They want people to remember that when it comes down to it, we are all human beings, and that there is no need for hate amongst us. Benetton has made a bold move in the advertising industry and should at least be commended for trying to do something that is very unorthodox. But of course, not everyone sees their campaign towards progressing humanity in the same way. Many believe that “Benetton is trying, through its depiction of the intense suffering of living things, to evoke a feeling of compassion on the part of the consumer, and to suggest that it is sympathetic". Controversy has erupted due to its numerous ads. Some people have seen Benetton's advertisements and have been outraged but have not taken action, while others have been more active in taking a stand and ensuring Benetton stops publishing their immoral ads. A few ads in particular have stricken a chord with many of Benetton's opponents. Opponents of Benetton's ads have been angered with Benetton for exploiting human suffering. A few advertisements that have gained recognition for their degree of controversy are “pictures of a waterfowl stuck in an oil slick, a human body stamped ‘HIV-positive and child labourers in the Third World-all bearing the slogan, ‘United Colors of Benetton'”.
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