United Colors of Benetton’s new UNHATE campaign, which launched yesterday, asks, “What does UNHATE mean?” However, the fake photos depicting political nemeses locking lips (see the slideshow above) have caused some controversy with the Vatican.

The photo depicting Pope Benedict XVI kissing Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb of Cairo’s al-Azhar Institute was removed from the campaign immediately after the Vatican denounced the photo as an unacceptable provocation. “It shows a serious lack of respect for the pope,” Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement yesterday.

“Unhate is a message that invites us to consider that hate and love are not as far away from each other as we think,” Benetton’s campaign states, adding, “Actually, the two opposing sentiments are often in a delicate and unstable balance.”

While it’s easy to dismiss the campaign as a tasteless stunt, Benetton has certainly succeeded in getting people talking. Isn’t that what every ad campaign hopes for—the age-old mantra, bad press is good press. After all, the clothing company is no stranger to controversies with previous campaign’s featuring death row inmates and people dying of AIDS.

Additionally, most of the media coverage has been focusing on the print portion, which is only a small part of the UNHATE campaign. Watch the TV advert below, which (brilliantly) hones in on the “delicate and unstable balance” between love and hate.

Should the campaign be pulled, or should it be applauded? If the campaign’s Kiss Wall microsite tells you anything, we should focus on love instead of hate.



Justin Alvarez

José Castrellón is a Panamanian photographer who identifies with cultural changes and the impact they have on different places. For more of his work, including Priti Baiks, check out his website. Justin Alvarez is an editorial assistant at Guernica. Read more about him here.

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