Benetton, which has already earned their place in the advertising world with their clever designs, colorful and often controversial ads, released another powerful photo series called ‘Unhate‘ to promote tolerance and combat hatred. It features professionally manipulated images that show unlikely pairings of world leaders kissing one another, and I must say whoever did the photoshopping for these clever ads is damn good at it.

“The central theme is the kiss, the most universal symbol of love, between world political and religious leaders, such as Barack Obama and Chinese leader Hu Jintao; Pope Benedict XVI and Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, Imam of the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo (the most important and moderate center for Sunni Islamic studies in the world); the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. These are symbolic images of reconciliation – with a touch of ironic hope and constructive provocation – to stimulate reflection on how politics, faith, and ideas, even when they are divergent and mutually opposed, must still lead to dialogue and mediation.”

Hu Jintao, president of China and Barack Obama

The Pope and Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, Imam of the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo

According to Daily Mail, the shot of His Holiness planting a kiss on Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb of Cairo’s al-Azhar institute, the pre-eminent theological school of Sunni Islam has raised the strongest objections against this marketing strategy. It’s been on Benetton’s website all day but was pulled about an hour after the Vatican’s protest. [1]

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Il and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak

US President Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Benetton also invites users from around the world to upload diptych images that mimic kissing duos from the creative ads, alongside a message of tolerance and ‘unhate’ on their ‘kiss wall‘.

Do you think Benetton’s ad campaign will help promote tolerance and combat hatred or is this marketing strategy only seeking controversy?