Obscene Benetton ad halted

THE OBSCENE Publications squad last week sought to bar British distribution of a leading French newspaper over a Benetton clothing company advertisement depicting 56 sets of male and female genitalia.

The double-page colour advertisement in Liberation was shot by Benetton's creative director, Oliviero Toscani, and featured the genitalia alongside the slogan 'United Colours of Benetton'. Some of the photographs were of children.

Acting on a tip-off, British police advised retailers and distributors that handle imported copies of Liberation, which sells 200,000 copies in France, that it would be 'unwise' for them to deal in the issue because they would risk infringing indecency legislation.

The paper's British sales fell by 1,000 copies as a result. But the issue was a mid-afternoon sell-out in France, where the ad prompted only 10 calls of complaint. One, however, was from the country's advertising trade body, which told other publishers it would not tolerate further publication of the ad.

Benetton, whose advertising campaigns have provoked increasing controversy, said the charge of sexual exploitation of minors was ridiculous as the children photographed were those of Mr Toscani himself. 'They are his own children and so it is not sexual exploitation,' said a spokesman for Benetton in Italy.

The response from Benetton's London headquarters suggested a distinct distancing from the latest advertising stunt: 'It was not a new campaign, it was not really an advert at all - you shouldn't know about it anyway, it's been banned here.'

The ad was devised after the organisers of the Venice Biennale arts festival invited Mr Toscani to show his work in its avant-garde section.

Pascal Somarriba, Benetton's head of international advertising, said Mr Toscani had to show new advertising work, so the photograph was placed in Liberation with the Benetton logo in order to be accepted for the Biennale.

'It is a study of sexuality and races,' he said. 'It is also about what is tolerated in one arena but not in another. Lots of things like nudity have been tolerated in art down the centuries but are not tolerated in advertising.'

Benetton's previous campaigns have featured a range of unconnected and often political images. Earlier this year an image of the Queen was regenerated by computer as a black person. Another showed a blood-smeared baby still attached to its umbilical cord. Two years ago a Benetton campaign used a photo of Albanians crowded on a ship trying to get to Italy.

'Did we ask permission of everyone on that boat to use the image in the advertisement? No,' Mr Pascal said.

'The purpose was not to show individual Albanians but to talk about immigration. This advert does not exploit children but talks about sexuality.'

He sounded more sure than he had earlier last week when he spoke to the British chapter of the International Advertising Association: 'We are not definitely sure we are doing the right thing,' he had said.

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsSchool leaver's pic YouTube video features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain