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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Apprentice Receptionist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join this w...

Recruitment Genius: Hotel Receptionists - Seasonal Placement

£12500 - £13520 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced Hotel Receptionists...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Recruitment Genius: Project / Account Manager and IT Support

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This world leader in Online Pro...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn