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Benetton gay ‘Unhate’ sparks protests, praise

Adverts showing the Pope and Muslim leader kissing have won awards but also banned by the Vatican
Obama and Chavez lock lips in a United Colors of Benetton ad which has sparked protests and praise

Benetton’s ‘Unhate’ advertising campaign, which features images of world leaders locking lips, has sparked fury from religious groups and praise from advertising awards.

The clothing company has had a strong reaction after creating the campaign launched last November, aimed at fostering tolerance for homosexuality and ‘global love’.

Computer manipulated shots include US President Barack Obama kissing his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel embracing ex-French President Nicolas Sarkosy.

The controversial ad series was awarded the Press Grand Prix award at Cannes Ad Festival yesterday (20 June).

Press jury member Steve Jones said: ‘The reason we chose this is because it stood out on the wall.

‘It's not like traditional advertising. It's not making a point about the clothes, its brand history. It doesn't obey the rules. You can like it, you can dislike it, and you can't ignore it.’

Jury president Tham Khai Meng added: ‘It cuts through all cultures, nationalities, faith even. It has heart impact and gut impact and promotes a global debate.’

The photo of the pope kissing Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb of Cairo’s al-Azhar institute, the preeminent theological school of Sunni Islam, had been on Benetton’s website but was pulled an hour after the Vatican deemed it ‘unacceptable’.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi called the ad offensive, adding: ‘It shows a serious lack of respect for the pope.’

The White House has not complained specifically about the advert, but has said before they have a policy of not approving of the president’s name and likeness being used for commercial purposes.

Benetton said the photos of political and religious leaders kissing were ‘to stimulate reflection on how politics, faith and ideas, when they are divergent and mutually opposed, must still lead to dialogue and mediation.’

Check out what you think of a couple other images of the campaign series here:

Pope and el-Tayeb

Kim Jong-Il and Lee Myung-bak

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