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Content or concept?

March 26, 2003

Benetton’s famous “cause-related” advertising, some of which features close-up portraits of AIDS victims and death-row inmates, has helped the Italian fashion brand win enormous penetration into retail markets in over 120 countries. But in the American political climate, the ads have garnered mixed reactions. Many find it exploitative that the Benetton brand has coopted good causes which are unrelated to the company or its products.

Clearly in response to these backlashes, Benetton has unveiled a new, more compassionate repositioning campaign for the US market called “Food for Life.” The campaign features engaging portraits of people from the poorest countries in the world, and a brief text story about each of them. The photographs are shot from slightly below the subject’s eye-level, which is associated with a more respectful perspective, as opposed to the shots from above in previous Benetton campaigns.

It will be interesting to see whether it was the content and style of the previous campaigns or the concept, itself, that generated the negative buzz. This AntiMarketing skepticism that is moving from the fringe into the mainstream in the US market, likely foreshadows a global consumer trend.

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