Benetton Takes on Bruises – UPDATED

benettonDVad.jpg

Just got back home from the long weekend to see the Benetton advert above. It was in my inbox, posted at SAJA’s ad-savvy blog and mais oui, on our news tab, via an Anonymous Tipster who wrote:

Benetton’s Colors of Domestic Violence campaign features desi survivor? On the one hand, nice effort. On the other: color-coordinating the bruises with the sweaters? Tasteless.

I don’t know if the woman is a DV survivor or a model, but I think the image is opinion-provoking. I want to know how many of you agree with the nameless mutineer who had mixed feelings about the execution of a very important public service announcement. As a DV witness and survivor, I think anything which draws pain out in to the light where it can be confronted is a good thing.

Domestic violence is a concept in constant rotation on this blog; I can grimly recall how many of you have come forward to reveal in our comments section how you have experienced DV yourselves, either directly or indirectly. That’s not to say that this is a horror we brown have a monopoly on by any means; to that end, Benetton does have ads with other “bruised” women of various ethnicities, which you can see here.

::

On a less serious tangent: how does this make you feel about Benetton? Positive, negative, no change? Is this just more un(desi)red P.R. stunting?

I’ve worn and loved them since back in the day (16 years!) so I’m a bit biased, especially since they make my current favorite little black dress (worn to the infamous man-harem meetup, no less), but I think that even if I didn’t already sweat those United Colors, I’d be positively disposed towards a brand which tried to address DV in such an unflinching fashion. What about you?

::

THIS IS NOT A BENETTON AD CAMPAIGN! Not only did one of you direct us to a Salon blurb about this intriguing development, the original link submitted to our news tab had the following statement in its comments section:

Dear All,
this is NOT a United Colors of Benetton advertising campaign. Please don’t be deceived, see the official Benetton Group website www.benettongroup.com

Best regards,
Federico Sartor
Direttore Stampa e Comunicazione Istituzionale
Benetton Group
Tel. 39 0422 519036
Fax 39 0422 519930
www.benettongroup.com/press
www.benettonpress.mobi

Curiouser and curiouser…

121 thoughts on “Benetton Takes on Bruises – UPDATED

  1. On a lighter note, I wouldn’t pay even $1 for that hideous sweater and the unfashionable white turtleneck (mock neck???) underneath.

  2. Hey, it’s the “anonymous tipster” here.

    26 · Shaad on May 30, 2007 07:15 AM · Direct link Now, note that I’m not saying that there isn’t considerable domestic violence in the South Asian community, but is there a particular reason why this series of ads seems to feature only women who are not white?

    The “colors” of dv — ie, women of color who have survived DV. But it’s also a nice play on the company’s slogan, the colors of Benetton. And it’s this conjuncture between branding (in marketing terms) and branding (in the sense of the bruises on the women’s faces) that so troubles me.

    After doing some follow-up reading at other blogs (e.g. Feministing), I don’t think these women are actual survivors. They are models. So, now I have this image in my head of makeup artists patiently applying “bruises” as a fashion accessory, along with mascara and eyeliner. In one regard, the message here is, You are beautiful even with bruises. The second part of this sentence is supposed to be, because it wasn’t your fault, bu because of the model’s stances and outfits and the context of the image, it could just as easily be, because you’re wearing Benetton clothes, and once again, it’s this substitutability — of the socially conscious with commercially canny — that bothers me. Shifting signifieds, oh my!

  3. ANNA means elephant in malayalam.

    I call BS. “Aana” means elephant in Malayalam, not “Anna”. Spelling, it’s not just for Bees.

  4. They intended to create this ad and they are bringing domestic violence to our attention– we are discussing it

    But that’s an indirect (and IMO, not necessarily intended) consequence of the ad. If people look at the ad, and say “wow, check out the shiner” and then “cool sweater”, Benetton gets exactly what it wants, and DV victims are no better off, really.

    I guess what I’m saying is I doubt the abilities of these sort of campaigns to really draw attention to DV. Or else, the non-profits struggling to address this problem would have done it ages ago.

  5. I call BS. “Aana” means elephant in Malayalam, not “Anna”. Spelling, it’s not just for Bees.

    And I second Hema’s correct interpretation. So stop attempting to be clever with your nowhere-near-veiled insults about Anna and her weight, troll. Final warning.

  6. Where is Floridan, our resident ad expert. After seeing rest of their ads, this ad makes me queasy about the companys motives. The ad itself is ok.

  7. The point of a Benetton ad is to sell clothes and make money. They have to use domestic violence to do that? It gives me the creeps. I don’t think it sends a messsage of empowerment at all; to me, it’s completely tasteless.

    But Benetton are the ones with the money–I’d rather they use their cash towards a public service message. Most NGOs are barely scrapping by and can’t afford a national campaign on this level which will get a lot of press.

  8. The interesting difference between this and Benetton’s previous cacophonous ads, is the other ads really had nothing to do with clothing, there was no attempt to place the product in the picture. This is very similar to Apple’s “Think different.” campaign.

    But this one breaks from that by having the product in the ad, that I think is contradictory to the entire “We’re different, we go after the real subjects no one else dares to touch..” sentiment. Because the ad to me says, “look how horrible this is, it’s such a problem, oh by the way this purple sweater is just fabulous” It’s confusing. but not in a good way.

  9. I’m falling into the camp that doesn’t like this ad. It seems awkward and uncomfortable because she’s wearing the cute clothes.

    I think it’s all the more powerful because she’s wearing cute clothes. It tells me that even the wealthiest executive can be a victim of DV. Would you feel better if she were wearing tattered clothes?

  10. Hey I have previously used the handle “anonamit” on SM before and just dont want to be confused for or hated on for this troll who has used it here!!!

    On the topic at hand…I really find this ad distasteful ’cause I believe that the intention here was to generate revenue/publicity for Bennetton and to use DV for it is something that I have a problem with…

  11. I think it’s all the more powerful because she’s wearing cute clothes.

    I don’t know if powerful is the right word. It’s attention grabbing, a big part of advertising is taking seemingly opposite worlds and putting them together. It would be powerful if a third party that didn’t have a vested interest in the cute clothes released a similar ad, then one could claim they’re making an objective statement on the perceived correlation between poverty and domestic violence.

  12. I’d rather they use their cash towards a public service message

    Sure, I totally agree — but a clothing advertisement is not a public service message. That’s not to say it can’t convey a positive message, but, there are plenty of other ways for Benetton to put its cash to use without piggybacking on a social issue. Of course, that wouldn’t be in the best interest of the company (i.e. making money). Generating publicity is not necessarily great for Benetton. It is not the equivalent of Stern haters joining his message board in droves. People dissing Benetton does not sell sweaters. While the ad may draw our attention to DV, then what? Is the ad offering us information? Next steps? Real opportunities to help? Do part of the sales go towards DV?

  13. “Because the ad to me says, “look how horrible this is, it’s such a problem, oh by the way this purple sweater is just fabulous” It’s confusing. but not in a good way”.

    Completely agree. Its good that people are made aware of the problem. but like HMF said above it’s confusing and not in a good way. the link below is an BBC report on amnesty internationals posters for domestic violence.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_pictures/3976807.stm

  14. @Anna #3 ” Part of me can’t decide if it’s cruel to echo the bruise’s coloring with the sweater “

    The three women in the other ads of Benetton for DV have purple bruises as well but have different sweaters/clothing on(Striped, White, Orange.. ) … Purple being a popular UCB color for a sweater, imho I think it was a harmless coincidence, and we are diverting attention from the bigger issues.

    @Others who disapprove of the ad

    I think the Ad is good.. it does bring attention to DV , which was it’s purpose. As for the image of UCOB, I don’t think one would feel like running into a store and buying their clothes when they see this ad, so I don’t think the marketing has worked that well, if that was the intention… which is why i’m convinced the ad was in earnest. Most of the comments here seem to be saying that ‘UCOB is profiting out of a social evil’ … I really don’t think so – if that were the case, why just target UCOB ? Every company that has ever given money to charity or society , or has raised awareness about cancer, etc. is doing so for two reasons (1) Help the society… (2) Improve the image of the company (by making it less ‘corporate’ and more ‘human’).

    Companies have helped immensely in funding social projects, raising awareness and so on … I feel it is unfair to call them out by saying ‘You’re just doing this for money and gaining out of a social evil’ .

  15. I don’t think Kraft/Nabisco or Yum! Brands would slide under the radar if they produced an ad featuring a pot-bellied third-world child with flies buzzing about it’s head and holding a cracker or taco.

    Nor would any of the generic AIDS-drug manufacturers in India get away with an advertising campaign featuring AIDS patients too destitute to pay name-brand prices for the cocktails.

    UCOB gets away with this because they have made progressive noises in the past

  16. which is not to say that the ‘consciousness-raising,’ regarding DV, performed by the ad is unwelcome. Every such act should be celebrated somewhat. I just wonder how much of an effect it actually has, though.

  17. I think the Ad is good.. it does bring attention to DV , which was it’s purpose.

    I disagree. I don’t think the purpose of the ad was to bring attention to DV. The purpose of the ad was to sell clothes, while provoking reaction about DV. The point is, any attention it brings to domestic violence issues is secondary to Benetton’s primary purpose or selling products. Plus, it’s my view that ads like this provoke commentary about the advertiser rather than the issue itself…so, in the end, there’s no real benefit to the DV community.

  18. I think the Ad is good.. it *does* bring attention to DV , which was it’s purpose. As for the image of UCOB, I don’t think one would feel like running into a store and buying their clothes when they see this ad, so I don’t think the *marketing* has worked that well,

    This is the same reasoning the conservative right uses to exonerate the government’s ulterior motives for going into Iraq. They say, “Look, see how gas prices have climbed? We didn’t go in for the oil, and if we did, we’re doing a bad job at it” It’s an extremely myopic view.

    When Barnes and Noble set up coffee shops and chairs and tables and encouraged people to read in their stores – the other book stores thought they were crazy. “We’re not a library” they said, “if you want to read it, buy it first.” They didn’t take into account long term association. In the short term, people went to these stores just to read books, their sales didn’t go up at all. But B&N wanted was a long term association, for people to think: book store = barnes and noble. Now who’s on top?

    UCOB purpose is clear – to GET YOUR ATTENTION If they can’t do it by having half-naked women running on beaches, they’ll do it in other ways, by being “edgy” As for comparing it to donations to charities etc.. Sure, those donations cannot be taken as fully altruistic, but it’s the visual juxtaposition of these extremes that’s out of place, in a negative way.

  19. @hema – ” The purpose of the ad was to sell clothes, while provoking reaction about DV. “

    The first thing I noticed about all the women were their bruises and not their clothes… I’m not sure if the general public will look at the ad and go ‘oh what a pretty sweater that bruised up woman is wearing, i need to get myself one of those’ … I think the general reaction will be ‘gee, such a pretty woman , if only she wasn’t beaten and bruised :( ..domestic violence sucks’

    … once you notice the bruises, the clothing become irrelevant …. at least they became irrelevant to me.

  20. Bordering on “borrowed interest” advertising, not clearly a public service announcement. The purple bruise providing a visual cue to the purple sweater is definitely inappropriate, if not exploitative. Very clever to latch on to DV, but as an advertising person, I don’t think I would have done it. But who knows! A lot of decisions one makes in the heat of business seem perfectly sane at the time.

    Of course, if this campaign benefits the DV issue in any way, the end result would be worthwhile. If it sells a lot of purple sweaters, I wouldn’t know what to think.

  21. The first thing I noticed about all the women were their bruises and not their clothes

    Proving that the advert will be effective in having people establish a psychological connection to them in the long term, because they are a clothing company “that doesn’t care about silly things like clothes but really cares about human issues”

  22. Just curious as to if this was the whole ad? Was there a message at the bottom as to X% of proceeds will be donated to X or that this ad is running for X reason?

  23. @HMF – “This is the same reasoning the conservative right uses to exonerate the government’s ulterior motives for going into Iraq. They say, “Look, see how gas prices have climbed? We didn’t go in for the oil, and if we did, we’re doing a bad job at it” It’s an extremely myopic view.”

    • Firstly, lets not even compare this to Iraq. Iraq is waaay more complicated, and reducing it to oil would be exactly the ‘extremely myopic view’ you speak about.

    The ads will bring more awareness to DV, simply because it is the FIRST thing you notice about the women ! How does that translate to actual help for DV victims ? – In the same way that wearing a yellow wrist band helps Cancer. Awareness is not the end, but the means to an end, and any publicity on DV is more than welcome.

    All the opposers should ask themselves : If the women were NOT wearing UCB clothes, but maybe regular t-shirts , wouldn’t you still be saying exactly the same things – that they are using ‘shock’ to bring attention to their company?

  24. IMHO Benetton is simply cashing in by sensationalising an issue and selling their mediocre wares. I doubt if Benetton has done any significant contribution towards any deserving causes.

    On a lighter note, ANNA could be “Annamma” and “Annakutty” in malayalam, right?

  25. I haven’t read all the other comments yet, so this was probably addressed, but my initial reaction is: If a corporation is concerned about these things, then maybe it should just FUND some public service announcements/ads that don’t include a plug for themselves at the same time. I know, business is business, bottom line, “all philanthropy is self-serving”, blah blah blah… But don’t the PR wings of most big corporations have a “charity” arm where they decide how to fund/sponsor certain projects?

    What if Starbucks did some kind of anti-DV campaign that just showed bruised models drinking out of paper Starbucks cups? I know the Benneton thing visually matches their other ads, so Starbucks is not a great analogy, but… something just seems weird about this. Then again, I could shift my thinking and say, yeah, it’s really risky and innovative and will get people talking and thinking, so it’s great.

  26. yellow wrist band helps Cancer Dont the proceeds from buying the wrist band go directly for cancer research? So does benneton intend to make a certain percet of sales from those clothing to help people affected by dv? If not, its just a marketing ploy to take advantage of a very sad thing. If it brings awareness to ppl great. But lets call a spade a spade, its just a company trying to use an issue to sell more clothes.

  27. Benetton has denied any connection to the “ads”; this post was updated accordingly. Anyone know what the hell is going on?

  28. Firstly, lets not even compare this to Iraq. Iraq is waaay more complicated, and reducing it to oil would be exactly the ‘extremely myopic view’ you speak about.

    I wasn’t reducing it to oil. I was saying the conservative response to the progressive parties claim that oil was indeed a large factor, is “Where’s the oil? we’re still paying for gas through the nose, so oil had nothing to do with it, it was about freeing Iraqis!”

    And that is a myopic view.

    How does that translate to actual help for DV victims ?

    Hema answered this claim and I agree with her answer, in #67.

    If the women were NOT wearing UCB clothes, but maybe regular t-shirts , wouldn’t you still be saying exactly the same things

    It’s the UCB label that matters most, not so much what clothes they’re wearing, other than the purple connection, and coming from a clothing company, it does come off as eerily manipulative. If a third party produced the picture, I think the juxtaposition would be more powerful.

  29. Benetton has denied any connection to the “ads”; this post was updated accordingly. Anyone know what the hell is going on?

    Possibly a student project or Adbusters-like spoof? I still don’t like the in-this-case-blameless company’s older exploitative ads.

  30. “objective statement on the perceived correlation between poverty and domestic violence.”

    HMF why does a statement about poverty and domestic violence have to be objective…A useful example might be A Jolie…her human rights efforts have gained her an incredible amount of publicity and as a result over the last 2 years her acting fees have risen 3X. So one could argue that she is using the poverty stricken to fuel her own monetary agenda. Or she could be a true saint…or she is something in between. Or she could be a saint and her PR director/agents etc have a monetary agenda. But the end result is that the jaded press are forced to give coverage to issues that might otherwise be neglected…seems to me you take the good with the bad..

  31. But the end result is that the jaded press are forced to give coverage to issues that might otherwise be neglected.

    See, this is my problem. I don’t see that any real good came out of Angelina Jolie’s efforts in various parts of the world. The media/press seemed entirely focused on her (and Madonna’s) attempts to adopt foreign-born children, and hardly at all on the very real problems faced by children in Angola, SE Asia, Ethiopia, etc.

    Not enough good comes out of these sort of campaigns, and Angelina Jolie could have done a lot more good by just donating money to relief efforts in those countries, than by going on these “publicity tours.”

  32. @HMF – “It’s the UCB label that matters most, not so much what clothes they’re wearing “

    The UCB connection is now officially defunct due to #78 , but lets just imagine it was still UCB’s doing.

    So if a company X or a person X wants to do something good for the society, are you suggesting that they don’t reveal to the public they are behind this good deed ? If you donated 1 million dollars to the AIDS foundation, wouldn’t you like to tell people about it … maybe have your name on the list of ‘top donors’ ? If your good dead increases your social standing, people think ‘hey now that guy’s got a gem of a heart’ why must you be the ‘secret donor’ ?

    If Google or Microsoft contribute 1 Billion US $ to Katrina victims – don’t they deserve credit ? If Google ran those ‘Domestic Violence’ ads instead of UCB , would you be crying foul at them too ? Calling them evil, greedy machines who used domestic violence to further their goals … According to you, what must a company do to ‘give back’ to society and not be pelted with accusations like the ones on this board ?

  33. Purple being a popular UCB color for a sweater
    It’s the UCB label that matters most

    \

    I keep seeing UCB and thinking Berkeley. Folks, can you please use the term FOB ad, for Formerly Offensive Benetton ad? Or DBD is fine too, if you prefer Did Benetton Do this ad.

  34. @Hema – I don’t see that any real good came out of Angelina Jolie’s efforts in various parts of the world.

    Now that is very disputable. Most of the public idolize their celebrities … and when celebrities act like good role models, doing things for charity, raising multi-ethnic families, and so on, our ‘Awareness’ is increased. This does not mean I will pack my bags to Africa next week. This means that I am aware that there is a movement or a charity I can contribute to that will help these kids.

    We all know that Sting supports conservation of Rainforests. I would never have known of such a movement if it wasn’t for him. Tommorrow when I’m feeling generous, and I think, hey let me give back, its time .. I might contribute to the Conservation of rainforests .

    ‘Raising Awareness’ is AS IMPORTANT as actual money.

  35. I keep seeing UCB and thinking Berkeley. Folks, can you please use the term FOB ad, for Formerly Offensive Benetton ad?

    Not to drain all that pretty aquamarine water from your humor pool, Rahul, but wouldn’t it be FBO Ad, as the “Formerly” applies more closely to the “Benetton” part of the phrase?

  36. “Not enough good comes out of these sort of campaigns,”

    See Hema I disagree…we can never fully know the good that can come out of any situation..the fact is that Jolie’s involvement brought coverage to matters that would otherwise have been neglected……even if stars begin to give $$$ trying to one up her…that would be sweet :) money would flow to causes; and though motivated by ego would bring positive results

  37. ‘Raising Awareness’ is AS IMPORTANT as actual money.

    I would say it’s important, but not as important. For example, Race for the Cure does a lot to raise awareness, but a large part of the money raised by the race ends up underwriting the cost of the race. You’re better off just pulling out your checkbook and sending money to an organization than signing up to run 5K.

    I applaud the efforts of celebrities to bring attention to problems, but I think the media isn’t interested in the problems, just in the celebrities themselves. While we’re certainly a celebrity-obsessed culture, most people just want to wear what Jolie is wearing, they don’t want to trek down to Africa and see what it’s really like. I’m not even sure that admiring a celebrity makes people give money to the celebrity’s favorite cause.

  38. So if a company X or a person X wants to do something good for the society, are you suggesting that they don’t reveal to the public they are behind this good deed ?

    No, I’ve already answered your comparison to charitable donations.

    But understand, those comparisons do not hold. It’s an advert in a magazine, do they provide links to DV organisations? Do they donate proceeds from sales to DV organisations? Showing a picture of a purple bruise juxtaposed with a purple sweater is not tantamount to donating to worthy causes.

    You repeatedly fail to understand the psychological/subliminal effect these types of advertising campaigns have, after I’ve given repeated examples: B&N, Think Different, etc.. Now, it seems to me you’re diligently trying to out-Prema Prema.

    What UCB is doing is attempting to piggyback off a volatile issue.

  39. you’re diligently trying to out-Prema Prema.

    That is a misguided, naive, elitist statement, you dolt!

  40. That is a misguided, naive, elitist statement, you dolt!

    Tell me something I don’t know

  41. i just saw a pretty girl in a pretty dress that got beaten. maybe im not reading into this enough.

  42. @89 Hema – “I would say it’s important, but not as important.”

    Ok I agree. Raising awareness is important – perhaps not as important, but important nevertheless.

    @90 HMF -

    “do they provide links to DV organisations?”

    And if they don’t, there’s always a search engine that can take us there pretty easily

    “Do they donate proceeds from sales to DV organisations? “

    Maybe they do. Even if they didn’t, the fact that they bring an ‘in the closet issue’ like DV out in the open is good nevertheless. In charity, even a little good is ok… isn’t it?

    “Showing a picture of a purple bruise juxtaposed with a purple sweater “

    I addressed this in #64, there were three other women with purple bruises and different colors for their sweater. This correlation is intentionally misleading.

    “Now, it seems to me you’re diligently trying to out-Prema Prema.”

    I’m grateful you didn’t pull out the old ‘that’s like Hitler during the Nazi era’ argument. Thankyou for not using that one.

    My point is that there will always be people who look at a noble deed and accuse the giver of ‘piggy-backing’. It doesn’t seem we are going to agree with anything today, especially after your last comment, so lets just agree to disagree.

  43. “While we’re certainly a celebrity-obsessed culture, most people just want to wear what Jolie is wearing, they don’t want to trek down to Africa and see what it’s really like”

    Hema if anything the level of celebrity worship increases every year….John Lennon was a prophet in this regard. But I think the alternative is that crucial causes will go utterly neglected and if that is the case with Angelina’s involvement it would be much worse without…Global warming has been spoken of for over 30 years but it took a spiffy powerpoint presentation by a media savvy politician to make it a cause celeb…

  44. And if they don’t, there’s always a search engine that can take us there pretty easily

    So maybe it’s google you should be defending so valiantly.

    I addressed this in #64, there were three other women with purple bruises and different colors for their sweater.

    What do you expect? people to bruise in orange and perfect vertical stripes? Advertising is done in metaphors. The idea is the rich colors of the bruises and the color of these cool new clothes – they want you to be aware of both, and even better, remind you who made you aware of being aware of DV.

    My point is that there will always be people who look at a noble deed and accuse the giver of ‘piggy-backing’.

    This does not qualify as a noble deed.

  45. If this ad campaign is a hoax, I say it’s the work of Banksy or maybe the commando artist who put up the billboard of Charles Manson with the apple logo “Think Different”

  46. If this ad campaign is a hoax,

    That’s the thing, if it is a satire, it’s a pretty bad one. Because it’s something that Benetton would most certainly do. Satires are meant to take a certain behavior to an extreme, but are readily identifiable as satire.

  47. I know I sent in the tip about it being a hoax, but I have my suspicions that Benetton is secretly behind this, and that they were inspired by the furor around the “Splasher” in NYC, especially when the Splasher’s sprays got vandalized by covering them with American Apparel posters, and the company (although not responsible, allegedly) came under fire for the whole thing.

    Benetton’s done edgier ad campaigns before, such as their own line of condoms, so who’s to say this isn’t a new breed of consciousness-raising–guerilla philanthropy, if you will?