Benetton criticized for boring new ads

Picture taken on November 17, 2011 in Paris, shows a Benetton clothing store window covered by posters as part of the launch of a provocative publicity campaign.

Benetton -- the Italian clothing company that courts controversy in its advertising -- is making waves again today with its latest campaign. But this time, perhaps, for the wrong reasons: critics say it’s boring.

No one said that about Benetton campaigns in the past. They featured such images as a dying AIDS patient, a newborn baby still attached to its mother by the umbilical cord, and prisoners on death row.

The latest campaign focuses, uncontroversially , on the plight of the young unemployed.

Called "Unemployee of the Year," it aims to celebrate the dignity and commitment of the millions of young people around the world who are struggling to find work. There’s a competition: 100 jobless youngsters can win $6,600 each for a local employment project  they nominate.  

All very worthy, say the critics -- but hardly shocking. And not very commercial either, claims Richard Perks of market research group Mintel.

"Here’s an advertising campaign that doesn’t do anything which actually gets you into the shops to look at the merchandise," he says. "It seems to me to be fundamentally misguided.”

But supporters of the new campaign argue that it will win the support and brand loyalty of the young. And, they claim, it’s not so different from previous Benetton campaigns. After all, isn’t youth unemployment one of the most shocking features of modern life?

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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