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Benetton Puts the Spotlight on Unemployed Youth in Ads

Campaign is designed to support young unemployed people and draw attention to the problems they face.

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Following the launch of its controversial Unhate campaign late last year — which featured an image of the Pope kissing Egypt’s Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayyeb of Al-Azhar — United Colors of Benetton is continuing in its crusading ways. On Tuesday, the Italian firm held a press conference in London to launch a campaign called “Unemployee of the Year” as part of its Unhate Foundation, to support young unemployed people and draw attention to the problems they face. To wit, Benetton has launched a competition that invites unemployed 18- to 30-year-olds to submit ideas of projects they would like to launch in their neighborhoods to the site unhatefoundation.org, with the proviso that the ideas will lead to “concrete social impact in their community,” Benetton said.

The company will then ask a group of young unemployed people who have joined its Web site to vote on the best 100 ideas, which will each be awarded withfunding of 5000 euros, or around $6,550 from the Unhate Foundation.

“What we’re doing here today is a drop in the ocean, but it is something, and I hope it can be a signal for other companies as well,” said Alessandro Benetton, chairman of the Benetton Group, at the conference at Benetton’s Knightsbridge store.

Benetton also said the firm doesn’t see the campaign as relating directly to its products. “We’re not going to measure if tomorrow we sell more sweaters because of this campaign,” noted Benetton. “We want to keep on creating values around the Benetton brand that are the values that have made this brand different. We do not expect anybody [who sees this] campaign to become our consumer tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. We just think if we look very long term we’ll create a philosophical relationship with the consumer that’s going to last over time.”

Benetton has also launched a series of images featuring unemployed young people to publicize the initiative, which pictures the individuals dressed in suits, describing them in terms such as “non lawyer” or “non journalist” to reflect their out-of-work status. The Web site will accept ideas for projects through to Oct. 14 and winners will be revealed by Oct. 31.