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Transvestite Among Stars Of New Benetton Campaign

In its first major advertising initiative since the departure of long-time creative director Olivero Toscani, iconoclastic Italian clothing designer Benetton unveiled its international ad campaign developed jointly with the United Nations that highlights the value of volunteers.

While many marketers are considering taking a more cautious approach in their advertising post the terrorist attacks in the U.S., Benetton it taking its traditional unconventional approach.

The campaign highlights an unlikely series of real volunteers in a style reminiscent of the company's previous efforts only in that they are dominated by a single image with the bright green Benetton logo off to one side. In this series, the pale blue UN Volunteer logo appears adjacent to the Benetton logo.

Among those featured in the campaign's gritty color photos are a transvestite who distributes condoms to prostitutes, a former chain gang member working on a campaign against violence and a young tap dancer who entertains the residents of an old peoples' home.

In a statement, company President-Founder Luciano Benetton said the ads would promote volunteerism and held reduce prejudice.

"Our partnership with the United Nations [should show] that there are many ways to be a volunteer," Mr. Benetton said.

The campaign, which will launch in early October, will be distributed in some 50 countries, mostly in Europe and the Americas. Benetton said it carries a price tag of around $11 million.

In addition to representing a rare partnership between a trendy fashion house and a powerful multilateral organization, the campaign is significant because it represents the first major advertising campaign Benetton produced since Mr. Toscani stepped down 15 months ago in the wake of the daring and controversial "Death Row" campaign.

Mr. Toscani had been the company's creative director since 1982.

The new campaign was produced by Fabrica, Benetton's in-house "creative laboratory" that Mr. Toscani helped found.

The new campaign is the latest in a series of ongoing changes for Benetton. Since Mr. Toscani left the company in May 2000, the company has changed chief executives, and in August it was a major partner in a Pirelli-led consortium that dramatically took control of telephone giant Telecom Italia. Earlier this month, Benetton announced it would reduce its total number of outlets worldwide by consolidating some into around 20 super-sized mega-stores.


Eric J. Lyman, Advertising Age. September 26, 2001

Copyright © 2001 Crain Communications, Inc.. All rights reserved.