Cannes Lions Press Grand Prix Winner – “Benetton’s Unhate” Kissing Ads From Fabrica, 72andSunny

Cannes Press Grand Prix Goes to Benetton's Kissing Ads From Fabrica, 72andSunny

Having just posted about John Hegarty and his view on the state of current advertising (i.e. the ads aren’t good enough). It seems apt to look at the Cannes press Grand Prix winner.

Benetton’s provocative “Unhate” campaign showing world leaders kissing, created by Italian agency Fabrica with help from 72andSunny in Amsterdam got the prize.

Three executions were honored—the ones with U.S. president Barack Obama and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez; Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu; and German chancellor Angela Merkel and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Absent was the campaign’s most incendiary image—a photo of Pope Benedict XVI kissing a senior Egyptian imam which was pulled almost immediately after the campaign broke last November.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement cited by The Guardian, after slamming the image as “entirely unacceptable.”

“It is a serious lack of respect for the pope, an affront to the feelings of the faithful and an evident demonstration of how, in the field of advertising, the most elemental rules of respect for others can be broken in order to attract attention by provocation,”

The White House was not amused:

“The White House has a longstanding policy disapproving of the use of the president’s name and likeness for commercial purposes.”

Jury president Tham Khai Meng said that Benetton “has heart impact and gut impact and promotes a global debate”.

Steve Jones, a British juror at the French Riviera event said: “The reason we chose this is because it stood out on the wall… It’s not like traditional advertising. It’s not making a point about the clothes, its brand history. It doesn’t obey the rules.”

  • True – but aren’t we judging ads not art and don’t the rules of the sale or effectiveness make it great advertising?

His sentiments were echoed by co-juror Komal Bedi Sohal, from the UAE, who added: “You can like it, you can dislike it, you can’t ignore it.”

  • True – but is an arresting image that you can’t ignore the best criteria to judge advertising? Surely any brand could spend the money to publicize an amazing and provocative image, but only a few can make an arresting image that is relevant and sells the product?

The campaign was started in the ’80’s by Oliviero Toscani who was the creative mind behind the controversial work that turned Benetton into a household name.

Toscani was Benetton’s creative director for 18 years from 1982 to 2000. By the height of his success, Toscani was known for his arrogance and drama (and loss of perspective perhaps!), but his first campaign for Benetton in 1982 used teddy bears to model the children’s clothing line. More traditional than you might think.

Twenty-five years ago, Benetton shot to global fame with its controversial line and campaign – all the colors of the world (which became United Colors of Benetton). At the time, whilst controversial, this campaign seemed to reflect the irreverence of the brand as well as the physical nature of the product which featured a wash of primary colours. 

The original United Colours was one of the great campaigns, differentiated from the category and relevant to the brand personality and primary product ranges.

Later efforts veered into the weird and wonderful – hearts, lungs, HIV tattoos and just-born babies come to mind.

I would argue that as the campaign veered off a relevant course for the brand (it’s a clothing line and store…), the fortunes of the brand took a nose dive. The figures prove it.

In the ’80’s when Benetton needed to generate awareness amongst a naive public, the notoriety of the campaign had an impact. It then became self-indulgent in the extreme and the company has not recovered.

There were a number of ads featuring HIV in one way or another, such as the famous photo of dying AIDS activist David Kirby taken in his hospital room in the in May 1990, with his father, sister and niece at his bedside. The photograph by Therese Frarewent on to win the 1991 World Press Photo Award, but whether or not this harrowing picture was an appropriate advertising image was widely debated. Some suggested it was more exploitative than supportive with AIDS activists saying that its use in advertising portrayed AIDS in a negative light, spreading fear rather than acceptance. The implied connection between the deaths of David Kirby and Jesus provoked outrage in many markets.

It is therefore very valid to ask if these latest Benetton Unhate ads represent the best on offer in press advertising, or are they just the most extraordinary and provocative campaign in market? If advertising success is measured by sales or by driving foot traffic to Benetton’s franchisees, this strategy and the previous campaigns have not worked.

There is no doubt that advertising remains a delicate blend of art and science. But I don’t agree that the industry is best served by rewarding the sensationalist approach of Benetton when it has lost all relevance to the brand. The Benetton campaign is art / social commentary, not advertising. The ad promises irreverence and a completely different perspective on the world today and all of it’s problems and prejudices that the stores, product and brand experience overall simply fail to deliver.

The judging at Cannes has come in for criticism on a few fronts. I would argue that it needs to return to the basics of effective advertising and the ability to sell a brand to its potential consumer in a relevant way, not just about notoriety, rule breaking or provocation. Great images that can change consumer opinion and sell the product at high return on investment should be recognised and rewarded.

Probably to “dry” for many, but this is actually how the industry survives. By sales.

As John Hegarty said at Cannes, advertising needs to stimulate and solicit the right response in the consumer along the lines of:

“Wow, I want to have a conversation with these people’, as opposed to ‘I’m doing my best to ignore them and they’re doing their best to trip me up in some way or another’. Isn’t that awful, we’re an industry that tries to trick people into watching what we do, why isn’t it inspiring, so people want to watch it.”

Benetton are trying to attract us by provocation rather than inspiration.

To some this might invite interest, particularly amongst social commentators and advertising aficionados, but I think that the shopping majority (and it is a mass market brand) will be confused by the aims of this campaign or potentially confronted by it, not inspired. Challenge and irreverence has a place in advertising, but it needs to be relevant and motivating to the brand.

Benetton Unhate is a great and provocative image, but arguably not a great ad.

Etihad “Why” campaign

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I like a mix of rational and emotional values in advertising.

I’m often looking for the rational message – the sell, presented in an entertaining and engaging way. This for me is the essence of good advertising.

Here’s a new spot for Etihad that offers you the promise that Etihad are better and invites you into some website answers. The site gives you some super facts and figures to support the reason why so many people switch to Etihad.

Things like:

  • 6,999,603 – the number of rewards redeemed by members of Etihad Guest, one of the world’s most flexible and generous loyalty programmes etc

But you need to click to find it. http://www.whyetihad.com/global/en/ once clicked this is a convincing site and could increase consideration of Etihad.

But it is very rational, a lot of facts and figures, very static and with no pictures of people on planes (…a bit obvious, but the best demonstration of in-flight service). Virgin Australia did a nice job of cramming in the facts to a very entertaining ad with premium appeal and pace.

The experience of flying is becoming commonplace, but people still need to feel it is an experience that they can enjoy rather than endure. It is still a service based industry.

How much more motivating if we were shown specifics of service in the Etihad spot? Or better still, if so many people have switched to Etihad, this is inviting advocacy statements from customers – one of the most powerful sales tools as seen with Emirates. My mum now swears by Emirates…economy not first class (…when is too much really too much!?)

Also no mention of sports on the website? By their own admission, Etihad is “mad about sports. We sponsor Manchester City Football Club, Harlequins Rugby Team, the Scuderia Ferrari F1 team, the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship and the Abu Dhabi Golf Championships.” 

As a part of their strategy this is a big plus to the large percentage of people who also love sports and worth mentioning (particularly at Man City and F1 prices…)

But back to the “click” strategy – in an age of immediacy, it needs to be a big promise (usually prizes) or intriguing question to get people to click and justify claims in an ad or to find out more about the product or service.

The proposition for the airlines is multi-faceted. Particularly profitable premium routes where it needs to combine price and service to give great value. Traveling 14 hours means you need some comfort, entertainment and service as well as an affordable ticket and the security of knowing it is a major carrier with all the safety and efficiency you expect.

A lot of these answers are there (even if the in-flight experience isn’t best explained), but I think if you are making a big statement such as “people prefer us”, it makes the statement more effective to qualify it there and then in the ad. This ad could have had multiple variants which answered the “why” with a few of the reasons.

One argument for the “click and go” strategy could be the global usage and language variants, but advertising works pretty much the same way in any language. Asking consumers to click into a website to justify the claim is tough.

The casting (particulalry the sun bathing couple?) and CGI in the ad implied a tight budget and unfortunately it shows in the finished product. This is relevant when airlines have traditionally put all the bells and whistles into the ad, even Garuda has a touch of glamour.

The hidden gem in the website was the economy claim. Whilst premium expectations are all about service pre, during and post flight, an economy trip is nicely summarised by this which perfectly demonstrates the improved service and has a nice impact:

  • “Coffee or tea? That is the routine choice for most economy class guests. In Etihad Coral Economy Class things are rather different. A frothy cappuccino? Freshly brewed tea? Or perhaps a relaxing hot chocolate? The choice is as wide as our wide-body jets.”
Sometimes it’s the little things that really count and I wish they did the Sydney to Melbourne route!

Pedigree “rescue unrescued” cinema ad – adoption drive

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This stirring (and long) cinema ad by Colenso BBDO New Zealand, invites cinema goers to make a choice in coloured 3D glasses. Accordingly they see a film based on whether they donate.

It’s a nice spot. Bit long in narrative and the idea is creatively intriguing holding your attention in the story.

But, the real point is Pedigree and their true commitment to the cause. The cynical might suggest it is a one off PR stunt. Not so. Pedigree really are pet people (dogs to be precise).

I’ve previously posted a brilliant spot featuring slow motion footage of dogs eating treats. It captures everything that the pet owner wants to see in a deliriously happy dog. And it is incredibly shot.

But back to the commitment to the annual Adoption Drive. last year Pedigree launched an eight part online documentary series for Facebook and YouTube to champion this year’s Pedigree Adoption Drive. The fourth year it has partnered with PetRescue.

Few campaigns can even claim a 4 year period of consistency. Yet fewer can claim such creative resourcing of the campaign which is based on the simple insight of pet lovers wanting to help dogs (not just nurture their own).

To place the icing on the cake, the entire effort is branded in the now trade mark yellow and black.

This is one of the best examples of a strong brand leader asserting it’s position in market through exemplary strategy and on-brief execution. The fact that they left the kitchen floor / bowl advertising and championed something new in the category is to their credit.

And here is one of the best pet ads ever made…