The Unhate Foundation, founded by the Benetton Group in early 2011, is an organisation that aims to encourage a more peaceful world. Their aims are to;
- fight against hate and discrimination across the world
- support the new generations of the world
- to support these endeavours through the power of art
However, this post is about its controversial ad campaign launched in November 2011, called the Unhate Campaign. This campaign is the first effort of the Foundation to achieve its goals. What makes it controversial is the way they used the political leaders in their ads.
Upon looking at the six images we see the famous figureheads of countries and religions, like Pope Benedict XVI, President Barrack Obama and the Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il (that’s the actual title…) embracing their opponents on the world stage.
Just from what’s in the image alone is shocking to most people, however, the cultural impact these images had on these leaders’ people was outrageous. While done in good will with a message that is pure, the way it was done led to most people disregarding the message and leaning towards a stance of condemnation. To see these people whom some love, respect and follow is the ultimate insult to their country and themselves. In fact the one of Benedict with the senior Egyptian Imam was considered so disrespectful by the Catholic and Muslim world that the Benetton Group was forced to take it down by both sides. Following this, a lot of these leaders began to criticise the campaign and petition to the Unhate Foundation to pull down the images.
However, if these people were able to see beyond the image, they might see the message that the Unhate Foundation was trying to convey to the world. A message of love and ‘unhate’ (as they put it themselves). One where your background does not induce hate from rival countries. In my belief the way they have done this is well done, especially with the pairing of the leaders in the images, like Germany with France, South with North, the East with the West. It is the embracing of these foes that sends the sign that we should find within the images and embrace within our own cultures, one of peace, free of discrimination and of embracement of all people, no matter if we hate or love them.
A link to the Unhate foundation can be found here. Look them up, they are a great group that I fully support and their aims as a charity group are completely different from the run-of-the-mill charities that we see today. And if you want more on how controversial this was, just watch the video by the Young Turks and how they discuss their feelings on it (mainly the one on Benedict)