A new ad campaign by Benetton features the unauthorized use of images of political figures. Additionally, the images have been doctored to make it appear is if the figures are kissing.
This ad campaign really tests basic marketing 101 principles regarding moral and ethical obligation and demonstrates a basic lack of understanding with regards to truth in advertising.
First, it is well established that one must have permission to use an image for a commercial campaign and the White House has a very explicit policy forbidding the use of the President’s image for commercial purposes.
Second, the images are not real, they are edited/altered/doctored. This might be acceptable if this was stated in the image, but it is not. Because the images are doctored in a material way (versus simply airbrushing a skin blemish), I believe these ads violate the principle of “truth in advertising”. I understand they may not violate this legally, as the ads are not making a promise.
All in all, it is clear that Benetton is simply making a gamble that the debate over these ads and the press resulting from such a debate is worth violating common decency and ethics. This is not the first time the company has been controversial for the sake of attention, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.
I suppose being stupid is their substitution for being creative.