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United Colors Of Controversy: Shock Value In Benetton Advertising.

2604 words - 10 pages

United Colors of Controversy: Shock Value in Benetton AdvertisingIt is a common practice of advertiser's to appeal to the emotions of consumers in order to sell a product. Over decades, advertisements have evolved to a greater focus on social institutions rather then the product itself. Nonetheless, the Benetton retailer distinguishes itself by its utilization of attention grabbing and often times shocking imagery. When flipping through the Benetton catalogue, consumers are hard pressed to find the prices of sweaters or khaki pants. Instead, we see images of a priest nun kissing, a white woman nursing a black baby, and in its latest campaign - death row inmates. Although the Benetton Corporation claims to be promoting social consciousness, its practices evidence profit motivation and extreme consumer manipulation.Perhaps the clearest indicator of company philosophy in the 21st is the Benetton web site. More and more, internet sites are catching up with print ad counterparts in the use of symbols and images to make the consumer feel good about purchasing a product. Often times, these web sites are intentionally distracting. When visiting, I was able to design my own sneakers, read profiles of female athletes, make a donation to a Children's relief fund, and even check the local weather forecast. Although I could do all of these things in my choice amongst thirteen languages, I was unable to find the prices of Nike sneakers. Benetton's web site,, is likewise functionally distracting when trying to use it for information about Benetton clothing. There is an area where you can browse Benetton's fall/winter collection, but the clothes are not prominently displayed and no prices are listed. When you click under "sweaters", for example, a new window is opened with a large image of female wearing an orange turtleneck sweater. However, the viewer can only see the piece of clothing from the neck up.The more substantive sections of are its image galleries. Benetton's "Colors 47" magazine features images of psychiatric patients in third world countries under this month's "Madness" theme. Under the "Who We Are" subsection, there are brief descriptions of company holdings, subsidiaries, financial outlook, and business partnerships. More worthy of note is the "What We Say" section, which opens up a window with the heading, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights". Here we can find an anthology of Benetton's advertising images dating back to 1986. These include photographs of AIDS patients, multi-colored condoms, embryos in test tubes, a slaughtered Bosnian soldier, and an electric chair. All of these images have been used in catalogues, magazines, and billboard ads with the United Colors of Benetton green logo prominently featured. None of these ads feature Benetton clothing. The Benetton Corporation claims that theirs ads have, "International, homogeneous, and universal themes" and that their ads have...

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