Shephali Bhatt
Dec 01, 2011

Live Issue: Young adfolk react to UCB’s ‘UNHATE’ campaign

Shephali Bhatt speaks to young adlanders about the effectiveness of United Colors of Benetton’s new global campaign

Irreverent: Obama kissing Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, a longtime Washington adversary
Irreverent: Obama kissing Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, a longtime Washington adversary

If Aristotle were alive, he would have tweaked his following statement, ‘Bashfulness is an ornament to youth, but a reproach to old age’, to comply with the present era. Cutting to the chase, the recent UNHATE campaign (which involves doctored images of world’s most popular political, religious leaders kissing each other) created by an Italian in-house agency Fabrica for United Colors of Benetton (UCB) has caused a pandemonium across the communication realm. Throughout the reportage on it, one thing that has outshone everything is that it will echo with the youth which is largely UCB’s target segment.  Then why not ask the young adlanders what they think about this campaign.

Chintan Ruparel, a young copywriter from Taproot India, says, “It’s an ingenuous idea. The amount of irreverence and purpose it pumps into the brand is beyond charts and figures. This is what the world needs more of. Acts, not mere ads. While these ads are hard to ignore, it’s the act (mentioned on the UCB website) that is hard to hate.”

Echoes Ravi Kant Tagore, copywriter, Publicis – Capital, “It reminds me of Stanley Kubrick’s 1966 movie Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Only the film was a satirical take on the then cold war inflicted world and this campaign is a straightforward message-driven take with a little quirk. Its controversial nature is bound to create polar opinions.”

Talk to some seniors in the ‘young adlanders’ category and you get the said polar opinion. Manoj Shetty, group creative director, Ogilvy, states, “Today, Indian youth are no different from Croatian youth or American youth. They get roughly the same inputs from media. I’m talking about the youth that can consider buying Benetton, not the youth picking tendu leaves in a farm somewhere. The nature of this ‘sensationalism’ is very 80s-90s Toscani’s Benetton. It’s not youth. The gag is middle-aged, the target audience is not.”

Aarish Matcheswalla, copywriter, Euro RSCG India, thinks it will definitely appeal to the Indian youth.  He adds, “Nobody in India has been brave enough to do such a campaign. Unless you do it, how will you find out the reaction?”

Meeti Shroff, associate creative director, Mudra West, explains, “Over 59,000 people are talking about this campaign on Facebook. Hundreds of fans have put their (puckered up) pictures in the gallery resonating with the campaign’s theme. Even though youngsters may sometimes not be politically aware, an ad with two unlikely people in a liplock, is likely to get their attention.”

Matcheswalla recalls how UCB has covered issues like racism, aids and religion in its previous campaigns, the campaign of a black woman breast-feeding a white child, for instance, which  sets it distinct from other apparel brands. That said, eventually, it all boils down to numbers. Benetton has had a serious dip in its latest earnings by 33% at $42.3 million. According to Shroff, the UNHATE campaign does good to generate some excitement for a flailing brand. But will it translate into sales?

Tagore believes, “If a brand manages to stir up discussions, sales are bound to increase. It’s not for no reason that well orchestrated controversies pop-up just before a movie’s release. Controversies translate to more people talking about the product, more visits to the store and therefore, better sales.”  


Manoj Shetty  

Ogilvy & Mather

Manoj Shetty, group creative director, Ogilvy & Mather

“It’ll catch youngsters’ attention. But I’m not sure it’ll change their opinion about the brand. Besides, Benetton the brand is very different from this ‘crazy’ advertising idea. The brand is at best boring. The products are vaguely ok. So while the young people may choose to reassess the brand, the product line will disappoint them. So I would say the campaign is self-indulgent and largely useless. The campaign may succeed in reminding the middle-aged consumer of Benetton’s glory days. And since they can afford it now, they may indulge in some nostalgia. Hopefully.”


Ravi Kant Tagore  

Publicis - Capital

Ravi Kant Tagore, copywriter, Publicis – Capital, Gurgaon

“I can’t think of a single reason, apart from cultural mores, that it won’t go down well with the youngsters.I think a majority of them will like it. And those who won’t, will at least talk about it. At the same time, there’s no doubt this campaign won’t work in India. Majority of Indians aren’t mentally evolved enough to take a man-to-man kiss, however animated it is, as a symbol of love and not homosexuality. It will however appeal to every Indian youth who doesn’t see homosexuality as a taboo and has a sense of humour.”


Meeti Shroff  

Mudra West

Meeti Shroff, associate creative director, Mudra West

“The White House has released a statement against it. The Vatican has condemned it. The Wall Street Journal has published a piece on it. All, within a week of releasing. So, I’d say that UCB’s new campaign has achieved exactly what it set out to do. It has managed to shock people and polarize them. Some hate it. Some love it. And everyone’s heard of it. Not bad, I think, for a flailing brand trying to generate some excitement around itself. Do I like it? Personally, I prefer some of their earlier work. But this one does make you chuckle, and think, ‘Can you believe these guys?’ That’s it!”


Aarish Matcheswalla  

Euro RSCG India

Aarish Matcheswalla, copywriter, Euro RSCG India

“The general opinion is Indians are a very touchy bunch of people. I can only imagine how the politicians and the party people will react if such a campaign is released in India. The ad agency’s office will be burnt for sure. The idea is definitely not a stroke of genius but I like its confrontational nature. It is powerful and effective. The controversy surrounding it is getting everyone’s attention. At the end of the day, Benetton has achieved what it set out to. It is trending on Twitter and has caused a stir the world over. Benetton will be on everyone’s mind now, which might help increase the sales too.”


Chintan Ruparel  

Taproot India

Chintan Ruparel, copywriter, Taproot India

“Everybody knows Benetton makes clothes. A powerful brand message definitely plays in the subconscious of the mind. I love being stupid, I walk into a Diesel store. The outcome of a campaign is never really decided by Adlanders but people who consume it. For long the industry has been devoid of ballsy people who simply said ‘Let’s do it’ from the bottom of the gut and just went with it. The reasons why they think it won’t work are the same old, insipid versions of fear masquerading as morality. May they someday emerge from the shallow comforts of their soft, deep chairs and point the youngsters in a new direction.”

Campaign India