Taboo of Tomorrow
Luciano Benetton along with his two brothers first established Benetton in 1965. Initially, Benetton was only for making coloured sweaters, however, the business soon expanded to include all clothing apparel and is now a flourishing business with more than 2 billion dollars in yearly revenue. How did this business reach such a dominating position so quickly?
The answer came when the Benetton group hired Oliviero Toscani in 1984. This award winning photographer was put on the top of their advertising campaign “Racial Harmony”. Given an immense budget, Oliviero was able to hire a French advertising firm. This firm brought a fresh approach, removing all Benetton clothes from the image and photographing models alone. The ideology behind the campaign, “Racial Harmony”, was to bring different coloured people to represent “United Colours of Benetton”. The campaign was a hit and sales soared giving UCB its dominance in the market.
The critics, however, were astounded by the photographs, that at first, seemed completely mundane, and enforced Benetton’s point well. However, after further analysis, one could quickly make out the evident and marking controversies that the photographs provoked. Many of these topics included homo-sexuality, “racial inequality” and other social taboos.
This technique, known as shockvertising or shock advertising had never been used in the past and United Colours of Benetton took a huge gamble by allowing these photos to be broadcasted. Though the adverts were rather provoking and caused much dispute, the idea struck home and these advertisements caught the spot-light that they needed to promote United Colours of Benetton.
One of the first advertisements to be published was “Ebony & Ivory” (shown above), officially launched in 1991 this advertisement set in motion an uproar, followed by others like “the New Born Baby” and “the UN-hate” campaign more recently. But, like all tales, this story also had two sides, and many a time the United Colours of Benetton was praised for its informative campaigns such as the “AIDS awareness” and the more recent unemployment campaign.
At first glance, the photo “Ebony & Ivory” seems to be a naïve snap-shot of two children embracing. However, the photo is not at all as naïve as it seems and if looked closely, the girl to the left can be seen with rosy-red cheeks and the boy on the right with a dry face and horns. The symbolism hidden in it can be seen by the “Ivory” who has been chosen to resemble an angel with the same blonde curls and ethereal face, and the latter has been chosen to resemble a devil with the same stone-cold expression and devil-horns spiked into his hair. This open show of racism did not only shock the audience but also set them thinking…
The idea hidden behind this photo was to show the way racism has impacted our lives and how it has corrupted the core of our being. There are few substances purer on the Earth than a child’s mind, but even at such young a...