Fashion and lifestyle brand, United Colors of Benetton, have launched its new global campaign, Unhate, which is the first initiative by the newly-formed foundation of the same name. The Unhate project pairs long-time public rivals sharing a kiss, the most universal symbol of love, including Barack Obama and Chinese leader Hu Jintao; and the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The aim of these symbolic images of reconciliation is to ‘combat the culture of hatred in all its forms’ to stimulate reflection on how politics, faith and ideas, even when they are divergent and mutually opposed, must still lead to dialogue and mediation.
"While global love is still a utopia, albeit a worthy one, the invitation 'not to hate', to combat the 'culture of hatred', is an ambitious but realistic objective," explains Alessandro Benetton, Executive Deputy Chairman of Benetton Group. "Ours is a universal campaign, using instruments such as the internet, the world of social media, and artistic imagination, and it is unique, in that it calls the citizens of the world to action. At the same time, it fits perfectly with the values and history of Benetton, which chooses social issues and actively promotes humanitarian causes that could not otherwise have been communicated on a global scale, and in doing so has given a sense and a value to its brand, building a lasting dialogue with the people of the world."
The campaign also did include Pope Benedict XVI embracing Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, Imam of the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo with a kiss, but this image has now been withdraw from publication after it was condemned by the Vatican.
“We reiterate that the meaning of this campaign is exclusively to combat the culture of hatred in all its forms," said a Benetton Group spokesman. "We are therefore sorry that the use of the image of the Pope and the Imam has so offended the sentiments of the faithful. In corroboration of our intentions, we have decided, with immediate effect, to withdraw this image from every publication."
Supporting the print campaign is a film entitled, Unhate by French director Laurent Chanez, which tells of the precarious balance and complex interweaving between the drive to hate and the reasons to love. The brand has also created a new website for the Unhate Foundation, which brings together all the images from the campaign and events; as well as the Unhate Kiss Wall that randomly chooses the pictures uploaded to the site by individuals, and the Unhate List, a Twitter-based list of the things and people that are not hated, which is constantly updated by visitors.