United Colors of Benetton
United Colours of Benetton is a globally recognised clothing label, created in 1965, but whose popularity soared in the 1980s when, under the creative direction of Oliviero Toscani, they began to build brand awareness through controversial print advertisements that centered on the 'colors of the world' and the ideas of difference, reality, freedom of speech, and the right to express it.
Featuring powerful (and sometimes graphically disturbing) images representing racism, death, world strife, and social taboos, the ads from these campaigns had little to do with the clothes that United Colors of Benetton sold (ie. knitwear), and the Benetton logo (stylized balls of yarn with knitting needles) was the only way to tell what these images were advertising.
One campaign featured a black woman breastfeeding a white baby, another a family stricken by grief at the bedside of a loved one dying from Aids. There was much debate over the ethics behind the 1980s campaigns, and some publications did not run the ads. Despite criticisms, the company stood by the campaign and continues to use similarly controversial images in their advertisements, stating that the images used reinforced Benetton as an enterprise that invests in research, is modern and projected towards to future, and highlights it's most important characteristic - its uniqueness.
Today many of us know the Benetton brand, not for its line of knitwear, but for the social activist print ads that shocked and raised awareness of social issues, unity and equality.